We need to prepare ourselves to defend against incoming killer asteroids that have the potential of striking Earth and causing destruction at global scale. US space agency NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) are coming together in a mission called Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment mission (AIDA) that aims at developing technologies for this purpose.
More than 100 scientists have penned and open letter and pledged their support for the AIDA mission through a petition stating that we need to explore ways to fend off asteroids that could prove dangerous for life on Earth. ESA’s Rosetta mission was just a start and going much beyond that agenda is AIDA that will enable us to equip ourselves with much greater understanding of Asteroids as well as how will we able to take necessary steps to deflect/destroy an incoming asteroid.
Launched at a media event on November 14 at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, the petition calls upon everyone to show their support for missions that will enable us to garner greater understanding about near-Earth objects (NEOs) – asteroids, comets and any other space rocks that sweep past Earth regularly and have a potential to do serious damage, should one strike.
The open letter of the petition that calls for support from the scientific community as well as members of the general public notes that we have had immense success with ESA’s Rosetta mission, but it is time to move beyond that. The letter notes that we need to make sure that the heritage of Rosetta, in terms of technology and expertise, continues and with more and more NEOs being discovered that are hazardous for life on Earth, we need to take major steps to protect ourselves.
As per the schedule, the Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) would be launching in October 2020 destined to reach a binary asteroid system – the paired Didymos asteroids, which will come within 16 million km of Earth in 2022. The 800m-diameter asteroid is orbited by a 160m moon. This smaller body is AIM’s focus: the spacecraft will perform high-resolution measurements of the moon to build detailed maps of its surface, sub-surface, and interior structures, the first time this is done on such a small body. If approved, AIM would be Europe’s contribution to the larger Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment mission: AIDA. Around four months after AIM’s arrival, the NASA-led part of AIDA will arrive: the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) probe will crash straight into the asteroid moon.
“…we, the undersigned signatories, strongly urge governments and policy makers to keep small bodies missions, such as the already launched Hayabusa-2 and Osiris-Rex and the upcoming AIDA/AIM, high on the agenda to add to the body of knowledge begun by Rosetta”, notes the letter.