Astronomy Magazine article on Asteroid Day 30 June

… Local organizers are making final preparations for more than 50 public events worldwide to increase education and awareness about asteroids and how to better detect them. June 30 is the anniversary of the largest asteroid impact of Earth in recent history, the 1908 Siberian Tunguska asteroid impact. The 100X Declaration, calling for increased detection and tracking of near Earth objects, is open for public signature.
“Our surveillance of near-Earth objects is not good enough, so we are trying to ramp up the rate of detection by 100 times,” said astrophysicist and musician Brian May. “Signing the 100X Declaration is a way for the public to contribute to bringing about an awareness that we can protect humanity now and for future generations.”
More than 36 astronauts and cosmonauts are participating in Asteroid Day. A partial listing includes: Pedro Duque (Spain); Tamara Jernigan (U.S.); Tom Jones (U.S.); Alexei Leonov (Russia); Ed Lu (U.S.); Patrick Michel (France); Dorin Prunariu (Romania); Andres Eloy Martinez Rojas (Mexico); Franz Viehboeck (Austria); Rusty Schweickart (U.S.); and Anousheh Ansari (U.S.), the first woman private space traveler.
“If we can track the trajectories of asteroids and monitor their movement in our solar system, then we can know if they are on a path to impact Earth,” said Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart. “If we find them early enough, we can move them out of Earth’s orbit — thus preventing any kind of major natural disaster.”

Additional information on Asteroid Day, the 100x Asteroid Declaration, photos, and video are available at  Related: Why the asteroid threat should be taken seriously



Nature Article on Asteroid Surveys by Tracy Watson, 19 June 2015

Astronomy and science organizations have declared 30 June as Asteroid Day, with plans to talk up the danger of asteroids that might be on a collision course with Earth. One partner in the effort, the Sentinel mission, has an especially urgent need to drum up public support: it is struggling to raise the US$450 million it needs to launch a space telescope dedicated to finding hundreds of thousands of near-Earth objects.
Astronomers have long sought a spacecraft that would hunt for near-Earth objects full-time, but public funding for such a programme has never materialized. Ground-based surveys have identified nearly all of the largest asteroids, but many of the space rocks that measure between 50 and a few hundred metres in diameter — big enough to wipe out a city with a direct hit — remain uncharted.
“Without space-based assets, progress is going to stall,” says physicist Mark Boslough of Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Sentinel, announced in 2012 by the B612 Foundation of Mill Valley, California, was supposed to provide that eye in the sky, and NASA had hoped that the privately run effort would supplement the agency’s own asteroid-hunting programme. NASA is considering funding an alternative mission, the Near-Earth Object Camera (NEOCam), initially proposed to the agency in 2006. But some scientists fear that Sentinel could spoil the chances of NASA supporting NEOCam. If Sentinel cannot fly, “then it’s just a distraction from getting a job done that needs to get done,” says planetary scientist Timothy Swindle of the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Ground-based surveys have located roughly 90% of the large asteroids that might be a concern — these are all bigger than one kilometre in diameter and pass by Earth’s orbit at a distance of 45 million kilometres or less. An impact by one of these behemoths would have global consequences; fortunately, such immense objects plummet to Earth on average only once every 700,000 years or so, and none of those known is heading this way any time soon.
The statistics are less reassuring for smaller objects. As of August 2014, according to data in a recent paper, surveys had spotted only 565 near-Earth asteroids ranging from roughly 45 to 55 metres across — out of an estimated total of up to 520,000 (A. W. Harris and G. D’Abramo Icarus 257, 302–312; 2015).……



Don’t fear apocalyptic asteroids: You’re safer than you think

New Scientist article by Jacob Aron, 22 June 2015:

…..Eric Christensen heads the Catalina Sky Survey, a NASA-funded initiative tasked with identifying potentially hazardous asteroids using sensitive ground-based telescopes. In the past decade or so, Catalina, other ground-surveys, and NASA’s WISE space telescope have spotted thousands of near-Earth objects (NEOs).
As you would expect, larger asteroids are easier to spot, but there are fewer of them. Surveys show that we have found nearly all of the potentially world-destroying asteroids – those larger than a kilometre – but many smaller objects remain uncatalogued.
Here’s how we know: astronomers can estimate how many asteroids of a given size are out there, even if we haven’t seen them all, by looking at the rate of re-detection, or how often we see the same asteroid a second time. If we consistently see the same set of kilometre-sized rocks, and no new ones, then we can be pretty sure we have found them all. “It’s probably going to be centuries before an asteroid like that hits over a populated area,” says Christensen. “If you go up to the size of a Tunguska impactor, the next one will likely hit us within a few centuries and impact over the ocean.”
So if we’re safe from the really big asteroids, and the smaller, more frequent ones are likely to hit without major incident, what’s the problem? It all depends on how much risk you’re willing to accept, and how much money you’re willing to spend to mitigate it….


Agencies, Hoping to Deflect Comets and Asteroids, Step Up Earth Defense

New York Times article by Bill Broad, 19 June 2015

The goal is to learn how to better deflect comets and asteroids that might one day endanger cities or the planet as a whole…..(Discusses the politics of the nuclear options)


NEO News (now in its twentieth year of distribution) is an informal compilation of news and opinion dealing with Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and their impacts. These opinions are the responsibility of the individual authors and do not represent the positions of NASA, Ames Research Center, the International Astronomical Union, NEOShield or any other organization. If anyone wishes to copy or redistribute original material from these notes, fully or in part, please include this disclaimer.

Asteroid 2015 LR21 will fly by Earth tomorrow!

Asteroid 2015 LR21 will make a close approach with Earth tomorrow at 6:15 UTC. It will fly by our planet at 2.5 Lunar Distances – about 960 000 km – speeding at 13.76 km/s (49536 km/h). The asteroid has an estimated diameter of 13 -30 meters (H: 26.4).

This is a really close approach, but there is no chance that Asteroid 2015 LR21 will impact us. Hundreds of Near Earth Objects (NEOs) fly by Earth every year and fortunately the majority of them do not hit us.

You can visit our Mitigation Measures page to find out more about how we plan to deflect NEOs!


Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

The NEOShield-2 Mission Definition Requirements Review

Mission Definition Requirements Review

Illustration of a combined gravity tractor and kinetic impactor mission. (Image credit: Airbus Defence and Space)

On the 20th of May the Mission Definition Requirements Review took place. This Review was an important milestone for all NEOShield-2 partners to agree on the reference mission scenarios and the major requirements. It was the first big step to ensure a common and well consolidated baseline as input for the following activities in NEOShield-2, e.g. the development of advanced GNC concepts.

In general there are two major mission scenarios. One mission shall demonstrate the deflections of a NEO the other one shall collect samples from the NEO.


The deflections of a NEO


One option to deflect a NEO is the “Two-S/C Kinetic Impactor Demo Mission” with the deflection by a Kinetic Impactor spacecraft hitting the NEO and transferring linear momentum to it. By this momentum transfer the orbit of the NEO can be affected and its separation from the earth be increased during its close encounter.

Using a Kinetic Impactor, the magnitude of the achieved NEO deflection is difficult to predict, in particular due to the unknown momentum imparted by ejecta produced by the kinetic impact. A sufficiently precise orbit determination of a NEO from Ground is difficult and may take years. Therefore an Explorer spacecraft characterising the NEO before the impact, observing the impact and measuring the deflection provides an added value for a Kinetic Impactor mission.

An optional mission concept is the “Itokawa Impactor Demo Mission” with the goal of presenting a reduced cost option while maintaining a large part of the mission utility. Target characterisation is achieved by selecting Itokawa, an object that has been visited by the Japanese space probe Hayabusa in 2005.

Deflection validation is achieved by means impacting the target far from the centre of mass and measuring the resulting spin rate change. Above a certain threshold this can be achieved by brightness curve measurements from terrestrial observations. In addition sub-satellites and potentially observations from a fly-by module are considered for additional measurements and images of the impact.

Mission Definition Requirements Review

Overview of Itokawa Impactor Demo Mission terminal approach configuration


The sample return mission


The primary objective of a Sample Return Mission is to collect one or more samples from the surface of an Asteroid and return them to Earth for performing in depth investigations and analyses using the advanced terrestrial laboratories.

The trade‐off includes scenarios as full landing and re-ascent, touch and‐go or just hovering directly above the NEO surface (no contact with the asteroid surface). This trade‐off takes also into account the description of different types of sampling concepts (e.g. drilling, contactless) depending on the selected sample‐return scenario and on soil characteristics.

The sample return mission can be a stand-alone mission. But it could be also part of the Explorer S/C from the “Two-S/C Kinetic Impactor Demo Mission” scenario.


Mission Definition Requirements Review

Marco Polo-R Sampling Campaign [ASTRIUM]

Will we be ready to face a real asteroid threat in the next hundred years?

asteroid impact asteroid threat

[Credit: Shutterstock]

Asteroid impacts and NEO (Near-earth Objects) threats are no news. Scientists know for sure that it is constantly happening and that the risk of a collision between a NEO and Earth is high. The question is not if it will happen one day, but when it will happen and how we are going to react to this threat. A few decades ago, many countries have realised that it is our duty to find solutions to protect mankind against space threats. There are now many organisations carrying out astronomical observations about NEOs and developing mitigation missions to deflect asteroids.

Planetary Defence Conferences (PDC) have been set up so that experts from all over the world could share their knowledge and come up with new ideas about space threats. During the last PDC in Italy, scientists had to deal with a hypothetical impact scenario: a 1,200-foot asteroid hurtling towards Earth, big enough to wipe out a large part of our planet.

After five days of team work, the experts had to admit the mixed result of the exercise. Had such a large NEO really been on collision course with Earth, we would not have been prepared to completely avoid a catastrophe.

Fortunately, more and more people are now aware of the importance of this topic and programs are set up to discover more NEOs and to fund deflection missions. On the 30th of June 2015, will organise the first Asteroid Day for the purpose of raising global awareness about asteroid threats.

Click here to read the entire article.

  • NEOShield is also a project focusing on preventing the collision of Near-earth Objects with Earth. Have a closer look at our website to find more information about us. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.