Back in February, ESA announced that a pair of CubeSats would fly aboard its Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM), which forms part of the larger Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment (AIDA) operation. Now, ESA has shortlisted five concepts missions for the flight, including projects that plan to study asteroid composition, measure the gravity field of the object, and much more.
ESA astronomers will be looking to the skies on November 13, when a piece of debris – thought to be part of an old rocket – plummets back to Earth. The agency believes that by studying the reentry, it'll be able to gather useful data that could lead to more accurate predictions of how objects interact with our atmosphere.
Lockheed Martin has completed final assembly of NASA's Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith EXplorer (OSIRIS-REx) deep-space probe. The unmanned spacecraft, designed to rendezvous with an asteroid and return samples to Earth, will now undergo five months of environmental testing at the company’s Space Systems facilities near Denver before delivery to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
An asteroid designated 2015 TB145 will pass by the Earth at around 1.3 lunar distances (approximately 310,000 miles or about 499,000 km) on October 31 this year. Estimated to be anywhere between 280 to 620 m (918 to 2,034 ft) in diameter and traveling in excess of 126,000 km/h (78,293 mph), the asteroid was discovered less than two weeks ago using the Pan-STARRS array in Hawaii and is the largest object to so closely approach our planet in recent times.
Laser-based communications has the ability to beam enormous amounts of data at high speed, but the use of this technology in space is still in its infancy. To help push things along, ESA’s proposed Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) will carry out a record-setting demonstration of space laser communications across a distance of 75 million kilometers while orbiting a binary asteroid.
NASA has announced the selection of five conceptual planetary exploration missions for further study ahead of a potential launch date of 2020. Selected under NASA's Discovery Program, the would be missions include the exploration of Venus and asteroids, as well as large scale analysis of near-Earth objects.
As demonstrated by the bumpy landing of ESA's Philae lander on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, exploring comets, asteroids, and small moons can be difficult due to their low gravity. Not only can landing on one be like trying to alight on a trampoline, but roving around their surfaces is next to impossible because the negligible gravity offers practically no traction. To overcome this, a team of engineers is developing Hedgehog, a completely symmetrical robot rover for low-gravity exploration that moves by hopping.
June 30th marked the
world's first Asteroid Day – a global awareness campaign
designed to promote an understanding of the dangers presented by the
rocky bodies, and how best to protect our planet from a potentially
catastrophic asteroid impact. Significantly, the
campaign was held on the anniversary of the 1908 Tunguska asteroid
strike – an impact that devastated eight hundred square miles of
Siberian forest, and served as a powerful indicator of the damage
that could be wrought by just one of the 600,000 plus known asteroids
whizzing around our solar system.
ESA has announced its intent to aid the Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency (JAXA) with its ambitious Hayabusa-2 mission to retrieve material samples from an asteroid, and return said samples to Earth by the year 2020. Following a successful launch last December atop a H-IIA rocket, the probe will now benefit from 400 hours of tracking and telemetry from ESA's 35 m (115 ft) diameter dish at Malargüe, Argentina.