Campaign launched to support Hera asteroid mission
by Staff Writers
Luxembourg (SPX) Nov 18, 2019
During a press event at the Museum fur Naturkunde (MfN) in Berlin, a major campaign was launched to support missions designed to increase our knowledge of asteroids and near-Earth objects (NEOs), in particular, the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Hera mission. The campaign "Support Hera" was initiated by the co-founders of Asteroid Day, the global movement to protect the world from dangerous asteroids; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS), which focuses on all bodies within our solar system including the Sun, planets, and small bodies; and the Observatoire de la Cote D'Azur, internationally recognized center for research in Earth sciences and astronomy.
During the press conference, organisers released an open letter signed by more than 1,200 scientists and concerned citizens supporting increased knowledge of near-Earth objects (NEOs) and space missions necessary to protect Earth from dangerous NEO impacts.
"More than 1,200 prominent scientists and citizens from around the world have signed a letter in support of Hera because studying NEOs cannot be underappreciated and the Hera mission is core to gaining the knowledge we need to detect and ultimately deflect dangerous asteroids headed towards Earth," said Grig Richters, co-founder of Asteroid Day.
NEOs are leftover matter from the formation of planets and range in size from a few meters to tens of kilometres. As with Earth, NEOs orbit the Sun and sometimes come dangerously close to Earth's trajectory. Hera will determine whether a kinetic impactor is able to deflect such a small body, when Earth is threatened.
"New NEOs are now being discovered at the rate of some four per day," said Dr. Patrick Michel, AIDA/Hera principal investigator. "We need a coordinated international strategy for near-Earth object impact mitigation!"
Within the larger AIDA international collaboration, Hera will provide new knowledge on the properties of NEOs and their response to an impact by characterizing for the first time the small moon of a binary asteroid and the outcome of an impact deflection test, as highlighted by Dr. Patrick Michel: "The Hera and DART missions, under the coordinated AIDA collaboration of scientists, will give us the unique possibility to test our capabilities to deflect an asteroid, combined with fascinating science!"
The European Hera mission is part of the international AIDA (Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment) collaboration. This collaboration is supported by NASA and ESA who will combine the data obtained from NASA's DART mission and ESA's Hera mission to produce the most accurate knowledge possible from the first demonstration of an asteroid deflection technology.
"We want to learn how we can interact with such bodies and how we might change their trajectories before an asteroid is identified to be on a collision course with Earth. As citizens of our solar system, we need to expand our body of knowledge of the universe in which we live and how we can protect our planet from hazards originating from space.
"It is now that we have the knowledge about the surface of comets and asteroids from space missions as Rosetta and Dawn - and based on this experience we are best prepared for a mission on asteroid deflection," said Dr. Holger Sierks, principal investigator Rosetta/OSIRIS, Planets and Comets Department, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research.
"Simulations of asteroid deflection by impact are only as good as the knowledge we put into them. With Hera and DART, we have the unique opportunity to test our simulations and feed them with new knowledge about the asteroid's responds on impact," echoed Dr. Kai Wunnemann, head of division Impact and Meteorite Research at MfN and professor for impact and planetary physics and the Freie Universitat Berlin.
Hera will also demonstrate advanced new technologies for use in future planetary missions and also pave the way to new types of deep-space missions using CubeSats for riskier operations.
Gisela Posges, a geologist from Geopark Ries e. V. said: "For me who live in an impact crater, the Ries Crater, the danger from space is very obvious. The Ries event destroyed an area from more than 4,500 [square kilometers]. That means if such an impact event would take place today at the same place - the area which is located in a triangle made by the three big cities in southern Germany - Nuremberg in NE direction, Stuttgart in western direction, and Munich in SE direction (all three cities are 100 km away from the point of impact) would be wiped out."
There are several tens of millions of NEOs larger than 10 meters in size that would have an energy larger than a small nuclear weapon if they entered the Earth's atmosphere, and we have identified just 21,443 as of 5 November 2019.
Unlike other natural disasters, asteroid impacts are the only one we know how to predict with early discovery and potentially prevent with deflection technology. As such, it is crucial to our knowledge and understanding of asteroids to determine whether a kinetic impactor is able to deflect the orbit of such a small body, in case Earth is threatened. This is what AIDA will help us assess.
The voyage home: Japan's Hayabusa-2 probe to head for Earth
Tokyo (AFP) Nov 13, 2019
Japan's Hayabusa-2 probe will leave its orbit around a distant asteroid and head for Earth on Wednesday after an unprecedented mission, carrying samples that could shed light on the origins of the Solar System. The long voyage home would begin at 10:05 am (0105 GMT), with the probe expected to drop off its precious samples some time late 2020, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said. "We expect Hayabusa-2 will provide new scientific knowledge to us," project manager Yuichi Tsuda told ... read more
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