ESA set to announce their partnership with the global Asteroid Day initiative, and detail a new mission to study potentially hazardous asteroids.
Brian May, one of the founders of Asteroid Day, presents his opening message for today’s press conference.
The European Space Agency will host a press conference today to announce that they are a partner on Asteroid Day 2016. Taking place on 30 June 2016, this is a global initiative to raise awareness of the threat from near-Earth objects.
Asteroids are the left-over remnants from the formation of the planets 4.6 billion years ago. We know that they have hit our planet in the past, causing mass devastation, and will continue to do so in the future.
However, it is a natural disaster that can be predicted by monitoring space to find these faint objects. The European Space Agency runs the Near Earth Object Coordination Centre that continually assesses the risk from nearby asteroids.
We also know of several ways that could deflect any asteroids found on collision course, though no techniques have ever been tried in practise. ESA is working to help change this.
It is studying the Asteroid Impact Mission. If approved later this year and awarded funding, AIM would launch in October 2020 and travel to the binary asteroid system Didymos, which consists of an 800m-diameter main asteroid and a 170 m moon, nick-named ‘Didymoon’.
NASA may also contribute to the mission by launching the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). This would smash into Didymoon in an attempt to alter its orbit slightly. As yet, NASA has not partnered with Asteroid Day.
I am chairing today’s press event, having been asked by Grig Richters, the co-founder of Asteroid Day. I chaired a science panel at the Science Museum for last year’s inaugural event.
You can watch today’s press conference live at 1400 GMT (1500 CET) in the viewer below.
The press conference will be broadcast live at 1400GMT (1500CET).
Asteroid Day takes place on 30 June because this is the anniversary of the Tunguska impact in Siberia 1908. The resulting explosion flattened 2000 square kilometres of forest in the scarcely populated region.
There were no known casualties but the devastation covered an area the size of a large city.
Richters started Asteroid Day with Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May last year, having worked on the film 51° North, which details the days leading up to a devastating asteroid strike.