Scientists Planning Now for Asteroid Flyby a Decade Away

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — On April 13, 2029, a speck of light will streak across the sky, getting brighter and faster. At one point it will travel more than the width of the full Moon within a minute and it will get as bright as the stars in the Little Dipper. But it won’t be a satellite or an airplane – it will be a 1,100-foot-wide (340-meter-wide) near-Earth asteroid called 99942 Apophis that will cruise harmlessly by Earth, about 19,000 miles (31,000 kilometers) above the surface. That’s within the distance that some of our spacecraft that orbit Earth.

The international asteroid research community couldn’t be more excited.

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The Day the Asteroid Might Hit

Asteroid Itokawa (Credit: JAXA)

WASHINGTON (ESA PR) — For the first time, ESA will cover a major international asteroid impact exercise live via social media, highlighting the the actions that might be taken by scientists, space agencies and civil protection organisations.

Every two years, asteroid experts from across the globe come together to simulate a fictional but plausible imminent asteroid impact on Earth. During the week-long scenario, participants – playing roles such as ‘national government’, ‘space agency’, ‘astronomer’ and ‘civil protection office’ – don’t know how the situation will evolve from one day to the next, and must make plans based on the daily updates they are given.

For the first time, ESA will cover progress of the hypothetical impact scenario from 29 April to 3 May live via social media, primarily via the @esaoperations Twitter channel.
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Earth vs. Asteroids: Humans Strike Back

SCI impactor on way to Ryugu asteroid (Credit: JAXA/The University of Tokyo/Kochi University/Rikkyo University/Nagoya University/Chiba Institute of Technology/Meiji University/The University of Aizu/AIST)

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.

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Self-driving Spacecraft Set for Planetary Defense Expedition

Hera uses infrared to scan impact crater (Credit: ESA–ScienceOffice.org)

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.”

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SpaceX Wins NASA Launch Contract for Asteroid Redirect Test Mission

DART mission profile (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the agency’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, the first-ever mission to demonstrate the capability to deflect an asteroid by colliding a spacecraft with it at high speed – a technique known as a kinetic impactor.

The total cost for NASA to launch DART is approximately $69 million, which includes the launch service and other mission related costs.

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CubeSats Joining Hera Mission to Asteroid System

Hera at Didymos (Credit: ESA–ScienceOffice.org)

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.

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Planetary Defense: The Bennu Experiment

This artist’s concept shows the Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security – Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft contacting the asteroid Bennu with the Touch-And-Go Sample Arm Mechanism or TAGSAM. The mission aims to return a sample of Bennu’s surface coating to Earth for study as well as return detailed information about the asteroid and it’s trajectory. (Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — On Dec. 3, after traveling billions of kilometers from Earth, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft reached its target, Bennu, and kicked off a nearly two-year, up-close investigation of the asteroid. It will inspect nearly every square inch of this ancient clump of rubble left over from the formation of our solar system. Ultimately, the spacecraft will pick up a sample of pebbles and dust from Bennu’s surface and deliver it to Earth in 2023.

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ESA Choosing CubeSats for Hera Asteroid Mission

Hera CubeSats deployed. (Credit: ESA)

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.

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Planetary Defense Has New Tool in Weather Satellite Lightning Detector

On December 29, 2017, the Geostationary Lightning Mapper, an instrument flying on board two weather satellites, detected a bright meteor in Earth’s atmosphere over the western Atlantic Ocean. (Credits: NASA/Lockheed Martin)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s efforts to better understand asteroid impacts has found unexpected support from a new satellite sensor designed to detect lightning. New research published in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science finds that the new Geostationary Lightning Mapper, or GLM, on two weather satellites is able to pick up signals of meteors in Earth’s atmosphere.

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Join the Planetary Defenders on Saturday

Video Caption: On Saturday, 30 June, watch live when scientists, mission planners, asteroid experts and astronauts from ESA, the European Southern Observatory and worldwide bring you the latest news and science from the work they do to help defend our planet. Watch online from the ESO Supernova planetarium, 30 June 13:00 CEST: http://www.esa.int/asteroidday

Earth’s First Mission to Binary Asteroid to Further Planetary Defense

NASA’s DART spacecraft is due to collide with the smaller body of the Didymos binary asteroid system in October 2022. ESA’s Hera mission will survey ‘Didymoon’ post-impact and assess how its orbit has been changed by the collision, to turn this one-off experiment into a workable planetary defence technique. (Credit: ESA–ScienceOffice.org)

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.

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Federal Government Releases National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Plan

A depiction of asteroid 2012 TC4 as it safely passes under Earth on Oct. 12, 2017. While scientists cannot yet predict exactly how close it will approach, they are certain it will come no closer than 4,200 miles (6,800 kilometers) from Earth’s surface. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) –A new multiagency report outlines how the U.S. could become better prepared for near-Earth objects—asteroids and comets whose orbits come within 30 million miles of Earth—otherwise known as NEOs. While no known NEOs currently pose significant risks of impact, the report is a key step to addressing a nationwide response to any future risks.

NASA, along with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and several other governmental agencies collaborated on this federal planning document for NEOs.

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Five Years After the Chelyabinsk Meteor: NASA Leads Efforts in Planetary Defense

This image of a vapor trail was captured about 125 miles (200 kilometers) from the Chelyabinsk meteor event, about one minute after the house-sized asteroid entered Earth’s atmosphere. (Credit: Alex Alishevskikh)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — A blinding flash, a loud sonic boom, and shattered glass everywhere. This is what the people of Chelyabinsk, Russia, experienced five years ago when an asteroid exploded over their city the morning of Feb. 15, 2013.

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Russia Eyes Technologies for Destroying Asteroids, Cleaning Up Space Debris

Bruce Willis in Armageddon.
Bruce Willis in Armageddon.

It won’t quite be Armageddon, but the Russian space agency wants to develop the capability to destroy incoming asteroids that could wreak havoc on Earth.

The proposed Federal Space Program 2016-2025, which is being considered by the government, envisions the creation of a “means of ensuring the delivery and impact with objects approaching on a collision course with Earth in order to change their orbits to avoid collision with the planet,” Interfax cited the document as saying.

The 23 billion ruble ($634 million) proposal is not limited to asteroid defense, however. It also calls for the creation of orbital garbage trucks — spacecraft that would comb the trash-ridden void of low Earth orbit for fragments of old rockets, dead satellites, and other potentially harmful space junk.

The programs are part of Roscosmos’s proposed 10-year spending plan covering 2016-25 that government officials are now reviewing.

Russian officials have been particularly concerned about rogue asteroids since a meteor exploded over  Chelyabinsk last year. The blast shattered windows and injured 1,500 people.

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Garver: NASA to Seek Private Sector Partnership on Asteroid Retrieval Mission

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver addresses the Planetary Defense Conference in Flagstaff on April, 15, 2013. (Credit: Eric Dahlstrom)
NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver addresses the Planetary Defense Conference in Flagstaff on April, 15, 2013. (Credit: Eric Dahlstrom)

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

NASA will partner with private organizations seeking to catalog and mine asteroids as the space agency undertakes an ambitious effort to retrieve one of these bodies and send astronauts to explore it, Deputy Administrator Lori Garver told planetary scientists on Monday.

“When Planetary Resources was founded a few month ago and following on that Deep Space Industries, I could not have been happier,” Garver said, referring to two asteroid mining companies announced last year. “It’s proving our focus of attention on areas where there is not just U.S. government interest.”

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