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University of Alicante takes part in a European space project to help deflect asteroids

The Ministerial Council of the European Space Agency has given its support to Hera, a planetary protection mission to divert dangerous asteroids trajectories and thus avoid their impact.



Alicante, Friday 29 November 2019

The Planetary Sciences group, part of the University of Alicante Astronomy and Astrophysics research team, and involved in the European Space Agency's (ESA) Hera project, was given the green light by the European Space Agency's Ministerial Council on Thursday.

Hera is part of the AIDA mission (Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment) along with the NASA with a twofold objective: to test a special double asteroid system, 65803 Didymos, and to understand the effects that the collision of the DART spacecraft (NASA) will have on the smaller of the two asteroids.

Adriano Campo, researcher at the University of Alicante in the Planetary Sciences group, pointed out that the collaboration aims to clarify whether the current technology is capable of diverting any asteroid that could be on a collision trajectory with the Earth in the coming decades. Currently no asteroid is known in this process, although that could happen at any time, which would require a timely strategy for risk mitigation.

This is a mission to demonstrate and test a technology capable of deflecting an asteroid, as well as to determine how efficient the result is, that is, whether the predictions on the asteroid go as planned.

Hera's challenge will be to measure the mass, internal cohesion and deviated orbit and its data will allow us to validate or perfect the numerical models, thus leaving this asteroid deviation technique ready, should it be necessary to safeguard the Earth.

There are millions of asteroids flying through space and the scientific community has catalogued nearly 680,000 of different sizes. Their sizes vary from centimetres to metres and even kilometres, and from more to less dangerous.

Of this list of almost 680,000 asteroids, some 21,500 are catalogued as NEOs - near-Earth objects - implying that their orbits pass close, in astronomical terms, to the Earth's orbit.


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