Asteroid researchers from NASA and ESA have recently teamed up on am ambitious double-spacecraft mission to deflect an asteroid in space. There are 878 asteroids in ESA’s “risk list”, with the space agency warning that even a small asteroid’s impact could cause “serious destruction to inhabited areas”. On Tuesday, ESA wrote on its website: “According to recent ESA estimates, there are 878 asteroids in the ‘risk list’.
“This ESA catalogue brings together all asteroids we know of that have a ‘non-zero’ chance of impacting Earth in the next 100 years – meaning that an impact, however unlikely, cannot be ruled out.
“An impact by even a small asteroid could cause serious destruction to inhabited areas.
“This is why ESA, together with international partners, is taking action to search for asteroids, develop technology that could deflect them in future and collaborate at the international level to support mitigation measures.
“The flurry of upcoming meetings will cover vital topics in planetary defence, including the planned, first-ever test of asteroid deflection, coordination and communication of asteroid warnings and how to ensure the most effective emergency response on the ground.
“With all the work being done, the planet has never been so prepared for the unlikely but very real threat of an asteroid impact.”
The ESA has invested £21million in projects such as the Human Exploration Research Analog (Hera) mission, which will study the Didymos binary asteroid, set to fly past Earth in 2022.
Studies such as Hera will help the ESA better understand how it can protect our planet from killer asteroid strikes.
ESA stated: “The ESA/NASA “AIDA” collaboration (for Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment) will see NASA’s DART spacecraft crash into and deflect the 160-m asteroid Didymos-B (also known as Didymoon, the smaller of the Didymos dual asteroid system).
“Later, ESA’s Hera mission will survey the crash site and gather the maximum possible data on the effects of this collision.
“The AIDA workshop brings together asteroid researchers and spacecraft engineers from the US, Europe and around the world to discuss the latest in this first-ever test of asteroid deflection, planned for 2022.”
While the chances of a major asteroid hitting Earth are small – NASA believes there is a one in 300,000 chance every year that a space rock which could cause regional damage will hit – the devastating prospect is not impossible.
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However, there are some plans on the go which could help Earth against potential asteroid strikes.
NASA is currently studying Asteroid Bennu, where its OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft arrived last year.
Part of the reason NASA is sending the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft there is to gather more information about the space rock which is 500 metres in length.
NASA fears that the asteroid, which has the potential to wipe out a country on Earth, could hit our planet within the next 120 years, with the next close flyby in 2135.
The mission will give vital information on how to deflect asteroids from their collision course with Earth.
But NASA reiterates that while there is a small chance Earth could be impacted, “over millions of years, of all of the planets, Bennu is most likely to hit Venus.”
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