Asteroids Could Cause Irreparable Damage if Not Taken Care of

The European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA have issued a warning that implicates political leaders. The space agencies appealed them to finance an expedition that aims to prevent a catastrophic asteroid clash with our planet.

Both NASA and ESA are getting ready to find out whether it is possible to deflect a rogue asteroid from its fatal course. The world’s first planetary defense project wants to observe the impact of colliding with a small space rock dubbed Didymoon, which orbits its mate, Didymos A.

Urged to Take Action

The joint Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA) operation has NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) probe crashing into the asteroid and ESA’s HERA mission studying the collision.​

The expedition is conditioned by an agreement by politicians meeting in Seville, Spain, this month to determine which missions will be financed in the following years. Because of the vagueness the subject surrounds itself with, more than 1,200 scientists have signed a warning letter which explains the danger of deciding not to fund the asteroid operation.

The letter said: “Near-Earth asteroids will either strike the Earth’s surface or explode in a fire all at low altitude, in both cases causing severe damage over regions of thousands of square kilometers or more.

“Unlike other natural disasters, an asteroid impact with Earth is not only one we know how to predict, but one we can prevent, by means that just need to be tested.”

​The letter also said that today’s generation of humans is the first that has the much-needed technology that could be put to trial in an attempt to deviate the trajectory of an asteroid. With a strong recommendation aimed for the governments to keep in sight the upcoming Hera expedition, the signed letter ends.

Artist’s impression of Hera scanning Didymoon’s surface. [Image: ESA]

Asteroid Deflection is Necessary

Asteroids are the leftovers of emerging planets which differ in size. They can measure from a few feet to hundreds of miles across. Similar to Earth, they rotate around the Sun and sometimes come dangerously close to our planet. Even so, there is not one thing we can do to deviate an incoming threat from its course.

Tens of millions of space rocks are wider than 30 feet, which means they most likely have the energy larger than a small atomic weapon if they somehow managed to penetrate Earth’s atmosphere. Researchers have, so far, discovered approximately 21,433 fewer than 20 percent of the total.

The request for financing was made during a press conference that took place in Berlin, Germany, before the ministerial meeting in Spain.

Dr. Patrick Michel, the AIDA/HERA Principal Investigator, said: “New asteroids are now being discovered at the rate of some four per day.

“We need a coordinated international strategy for near-Earth object impact mitigation.

“The AIDA collaboration will give us the unique possibility to test our capabilities to deflect an asteroid, combined with fascinating science.”

​The NASA DART expedition will most probably launch in 2020 and will get close to the binary asteroid system the following year. Then, it will immediately collide into the 524 feet-wide Didymos B, and orbiting the 2,560 feet​ mate, Didymos A.

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