AIDA team-up aims to test asteroid deflection

Asteroid researchers and spacecraft designers are meeting up in Rome next week to discuss a common goal of a double spacecraft mission to deflect an asteroid in space. The scientists want to prove if their technique is a viable method of planetary defense against asteroids. The mission is known as Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment or AIDA.

The purpose of the mission is to deflect the orbit of a smaller asteroid of the double Didymos asteroids between Earth and Mars using the impact of one spacecraft. The second spacecraft will survey the crash site and gather the most data possible on the effects of this collision.

During the event, the participants will share current progress data on the two spacecraft that make up AIDA along with the smaller nano-spacecraft they will carry aboard. Team members will also talk about the latest information learned about Didymos.

NASA has contributed to AIDA, and its contribution is called the Double Asteroid Impact Test or DART spacecraft. This spacecraft is under construction and will launch in the summer of 2021. DART will collide with the asteroid in September 2022 at a speed of 6.6 km/s.

After the collision, an Italian spacecraft called LICIACube will record the moment of impact. The ESA will start its part of the mission called Hera to perform a close-up survey of the post-impact crater. It will measure the mass of the asteroid and detailed crater shape measurements. Hera will deploy a pair of CubeSats for close up surveys of the asteroid.

The goal is to take the data gathered by Hera and model the efficiency of the collision. The experiment could then be turned into a technique that could be repeated if needed. The ESA notes that Earth ground-based observations will be sufficient to gauge if the mission worked.