NASA and the European Space Agency are meeting to defend the Earth against asteroids

Representative image of ESA's Hera approaching the binary Didymos asteroid systemESA

  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) are meeting in Rome next week to discuss their plan for planetary defence against asteroids.
  • The two-part mission dubbed Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment (AIDA) plans to collide with asteroid Didymoon — the smaller of the Didymos’ binary system.
  • NASA is in charge of conducting the actually impact while ESA will analyse the aftermath.
Hundreds of asteroids are whizzing past Earth. Thanks to satellites and telescopes watching the skies, we know more about them than ever before — including the threats they pose.

To counter incoming asteroids, the European Space Agency ( ESA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are teaming up to deflect an asteroid as proof-of-concept for planetary defense.

They’re going to double tag the dual asteroids dubbed Didymoon and Didymos. The aim is to knock out the smaller asteroid — Didymoon — and then analyse the crash site.

Simulated image of the Didymos system, derived from photometric lightcurve and radar data. The primary body is about 780 meters in diameter and the moonlet is approximately 160 meters in size. They are separated by just over a kilometer.NASA

ESA, NASA and other researchers from around the world are meeting up in Rome next week to check in on their progress for the mission dubbed Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment (AIDA).

NASA is going to collide with the asteroid

AIDA has two parts to it that are divided between the ESA and NASA.

The American space agency will be using their Double Asteroid Impact Test ( DART) spacecraft to collide with the Didymoon asteroid.

DART plan to collide with DidymoonESA

DART will travel at a speed of 6.6 kilometers per second to break the space rock into smaller pieces with help from its onboard camera — DRACO — and autonomous navigation software.

An Italian CubeSat, LICIACube, will be flying alongside DART to record the impact and send the data back to the on-ground team.

ESA will analyse the asteroid impact

ESA will then tag in to analyse the asteroid post-impact to get more details on the asteroid's new size and the resulting impact crater.


ESA is calling its part in the mission ‘Hera’, which is also be accompanied CubeSats for a closeup survey of the asteroid impact’s aftermath. This will be the first time that an asteroid will be subject to a radar probe.

Representative image of Hera analysing impactESA

The aim of analysing the asteroid after the impact to figure out if the planetary defence mechanism can be made more efficient.

DART can do it alone, but it’s better with Hera

"DART can perform its mission without Hera – the effect of its impact on the asteroid’s orbit will be measurable using Earth ground-based observatories alone," explains Ian Carnelli, managing Hera for ESA.

Representative image of Hera approaching DidymoonESA

"But flying the two missions together will greatly magnify their overall knowledge return. Hera will in fact gather essential data to turn this one-off experiment into an asteroid deflection technique applicable to other asteroids," Carnelli explains.

It’s going to take more than a year to reach the Didymoon

The launch window for the NASA’s DART spacecraft to launch will begin in late July 2021. NASA is planning to launch from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California abroad SpaceX’s Falcon 9.

Representative image of how AIDA impact will be seenESA

The plan is for DART to reach the Didymoon in September 2022 when the binary asteroids will be around 11 million kilometers from Earth.

The AIDA workshop next week will share progress on the DART spacecraft and collate information on the targeted asteroids that will fly by Earth on 7 October 2022.

See also:
Elon Musk says we have no defence against asteroid ‘God of Chaos'

An asteroid nearly half the size of Mount Everest might be on a collision course for Earth in less than a year

The last major asteroid to hit Earth destroyed 500 square kilometers — and it could have been much worse
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