PARIS (ESA PR) — On 25 July, an asteroid the size of a football field flew by Earth, coming within 65 000 km of our planet’s surface during its closest approach – about one fifth of the distance to the Moon.
The 100 m-wide asteroid dubbed ‘2019 OK’ was detected just days before
it passed Earth, although archival records from sky surveys show it had
previously been observed but wasn’t recognised as a near-Earth asteroid.
While 2019 OK illustrates the need for even more eyes on the sky, it also provides an opportunity to improve the asteroid recognising abilities of current and future telescopes, including ESA’s upcoming ‘Flyeye‘.
TOULOUSE, France (ESA PR) — ESA’s Hera mission for planetary defence, being designed to survey the smallest asteroid ever explored, is really three spacecraft in one. The main mothership will carry two briefcase-sized CubeSats, which will touch down on the target body. A French team has been investigating what might happen at that initial instant of alien contact.
“We’ve customised an existing drop tower and rigged it up with a system of pulleys and counterweights in order to simulate a low gravity environment,” explains researcher Naomi Murdoch of the Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace (ISAE-Supaero), part of the University of Toulouse.
PARIS, 23 May 2019 (ESA PR) — ESA has just signed a contract with GomSpace Luxembourg to design the first ever nanosatellite to rendezvous with an asteroid.
The Miniaturised Asteroid Remote Geophysical Observer (M-ARGO) mission will be a standalone spacecraft, meaning it will have all of the fuel, propulsion systems and thrusters to complete its journey on board. In comparison to another ESA nanosatellite to be flying in deep space, HERA, which will piggyback on another spacecraft.
PARIS, 1 May 2019 (ESA PR) — Small enough to be an aircraft carry-on, the Juventas spacecraft nevertheless has big mission goals. Once in orbit around its target body, Juventas will unfurl an antenna larger than itself, to perform the very first subsurface radar survey of an asteroid.
ESA’s proposed Hera mission for planetary defence will explore the twin Didymos asteroids, but it will not go there alone: it will also serve as mothership for Europe’s first two ‘CubeSats’ to travel into deep space.
PARIS (ESA PR) — Incoming asteroids have been scarring our home planet for billions of years. This month humankind left our own mark on an asteroid for the first time: Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft dropped a copper projectile at very high speed in an attempt to form a crater on asteroid Ryugu. A much bigger asteroid impact is planned for the coming decade, involving an international double-spacecraft mission.
PARIS (ESA PR) — Engineers designing ESA’s Hera planetary defence mission to the Didymos asteroid pair are developing advanced technology to let the spacecraft steer itself through space, taking a similar approach to self-driving cars.
“If you think self-driving cars are the future on Earth, then Hera is the pioneer of autonomy in deep space,” explains Paolo Martino, lead systems engineer of ESA’s proposed Hera mission. “While the mission is designed to be fully operated manually from ground, the new technology will be tested once the core mission objectives are achieved and higher risks can be taken.”
PARIS (ESA PR) — When ESA’s planned Hera mission journeys to its target binary asteroid system, it will not be alone. The spacecraft will carry two tiny CubeSats for deployment around – and eventual landing on – the Didymos asteroids. Each companion spacecraft will be small enough to fit inside a briefcase, as compared to the desk-sized Hera.
PARIS (ESA PR) — As the world marvels at the hopping mini-rovers deployed on asteroid Ryugu by Japan’s Hayabusa2, ESA is due to decide on the CubeSats planned for delivery to a binary asteroid system by its proposed Hera mission.
CubeSats are nanosatellites based on standardised 10 cm-sized units. This week an ESA evaluation board decides which two ‘6-unit’ CubeSat missions will ride with the next-decade Hera mission to the Didymos asteroid system. The CubeSats will be deployed around the smaller of the two bodies for eventual landing.
PARIS (ESA PR) — In a unique cooperation between ESA, Asteroid Day and Luxembourg Post, a limited edition set of first-day stamps and postcards is being released for this year’s Asteroid Day.
Asteroid Day is a global campaign to increase awareness about asteroids and the threats and opportunities they pose. Celebrated each year on 30 June, Asteroid Day marks the largest asteroid impact event experienced on Earth in recorded history, the 1908 Tunguska event.
PARIS (ESA PR) — Planning for humankind’s first mission to a binary asteroid system has entered its next engineering phase. ESA’s proposed Hera mission would also be Europe’s contribution to an ambitious planetary defence experiment.
Named for the Greek goddess of marriage, Hera would fly to the Didymos pair of Near-Earth asteroids: the 780 m-diameter mountain-sized main body is orbited by a 160 m moon, informally called ‘Didymoon’, about the same size as the Great Pyramid of Giza.
HOUSTON (NASA PR — NASA’s Human Research Program and the German Space Agency (DLR) will fund six proposals to investigate possible changes in the behavioral health and performance of astronauts on future deep space exploration missions. The selected proposals aim to address the impact of the spaceflight environment on various aspects of astronaut health, including cognition, sleep loss and team functioning. This work is helping NASA develop the knowledge and countermeasures necessary to ensure astronauts remain healthy as we venture beyond low-Earth orbit to visit an asteroid and eventually the journey to Mars.