Join the Unexplained Mysteries community today! It's free and setting up an account only takes a moment.
- Sign In or Create Account -
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Waspie_Dwarf

Asteroids: The Don Quijote Mission

8 posts in this topic

Asteroids: treasures of the past and a threat to the future

user posted image

An The Impact moment on the Don Quijote mission: The Orbiter spacecraft (Sancho) has retreated to a safe distance to observe how the Impactor spacecraft (Hidalgo) crashes into the asteroid. After the Impact Sancho will come closer and inspect the changes.

Credits: ESA - AOES Medialab

3 April 2006

If a large asteroid such as the recently identified 2004 VD17 – about 500 m in diameter with a mass of nearly 1000 million tonnes - collides with the Earth it could spell disaster for much of our planet. As part of ESA’s Near-Earth Object deflecting mission Don Quijote, three teams of European industries are now carrying out studies on how to prevent this.

ESA has been addressing the problem of how to prevent large Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) from colliding with the Earth for some time. In 1996 the Council of Europe called for the Agency to take action as part of a “long-term global strategy for remedies against possible impacts”. Recommendations from other international organisations, including the UN and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), soon followed.

In response to these and other calls, ESA commissioned a number of threat evaluation and mission studies through its General Studies Programme (GSP). In July 2004 the preliminary phase was completed when a panel of experts appointed by ESA recommended giving the Don Quijote asteroid-deflecting mission concept maximum priority for implementation.

Now it is time for industry to put forward their best design solutions for the mission. Following an invitation to tender and the subsequent evaluation process, three industrial teams have been awarded a contract to carry out the mission phase-A studies. :

  • a team with Alcatel Alenia Space as prime contractor includes subcontractors and consultants from across Europe and Canada; Alcatel Alenia Space developed the Huygens Titan probe and is currently working on the ExoMars mission
  • a consortium led by EADS Astrium, which includes Deimos Space from Spain and consultants from several European countries, brings their experience of working on the design of many successful ESA interplanetary missions such as Rosetta, Mars and Venus Express
  • a team led by QinetiQ (UK), which includes companies and partners in Sweden and Belgium, draws on their expertise in mini and micro satellites including ESA’s SMART-1 and Proba projects

This month the three teams began work and a critical milestone will take place in October when the studies will be reviewed by ESA with the support of an international panel of experts. The results of this phase will be available next year.

user posted image

The key moment of the Don Quijote mission: the Impactor spacecraft (Hidalgo) smashes into the asteroid while observed, from a safe distance, by the Orbiter spacecraft (Sancho)

Credits: ESA - AOES Medialab

No reason for panic – yet

The risk is still small however, and may decrease even further when new observations are carried out. Still, if this or any other similar-sized object, such as 99942 Apophis, an asteroid that will come close enough to the Earth in 2029 to be visible to the naked eye, collided with our planet the energy released could be equivalent to a significant fraction of the world's nuclear arsenal, resulting in devastation across national borders.

Luckily, impacts with very large asteroids are uncommon, although impacts with smaller asteroids are less unlikely and remote in time. In 1908 an asteroid that exploded over Siberia devastated an unpopulated forest area of more than 2000 km²; had it arrived just a few hours later, Saint Petersburg or London could have been hit instead.

user posted image

The target asteroid of the Don Quijote mission as it could be seen from the Impactor spacecraft (Hidalgo) moments before the imipact takes place.

Credits: ESA - AOES Medialab

Fossils of the Solar System

Asteroids are a part of our planet’s history. As anyone visiting the Barringer Meteor Crater in Arizona, USA or aiming a small telescope at the Moon can tell, there is plenty of evidence that the Earth and its cosmic neighbourhood passed through a period of heavy asteroid bombardment. On the Earth alone the remains of more than 160 impacts have been identified, some as notorious as the Chicxulub crater located in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, believed to be a trace of the asteroid that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Collisions have shaped the history of our Solar System. Because asteroids and comets are remnants of the turbulent period in which the planets were formed, they are in fact similar to ‘time capsules’ and carry a pristine record of those early days. By studying these objects it is possible to learn more about the evolution of our Solar System as well as ‘hints’ about the origins of life on Earth.

user posted image

An image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Our Solar System is home to one star, nine planets and dozens of planetary satellites. It also contains millions of asteroids and comets – the left-over debris from the cosmic construction site that created the planets and their moons.

Rosetta’s task is to study these primitive building blocks at close quarters so that scientists may gain new insights into the events that took place 4600 million years ago, during the birth of Earth and its planetary neighbours.

Credits: ESA and European Southern Observatory

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is one of these primitive building blocks and will be visited by ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft in 2014, as a part of a very ambitious mission - the first ever to land on a comet. Rosetta will also visit two main belt asteroids (Steins and Lutetia) on its way to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The mission will help us to understand if life on Earth began with the help of materials such as water and organisms brought to our planet by 'comet seeding'.

ESA’s Science programme is already looking at future challenges, and its Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 plan has identified an asteroid surface sample return as one of the key developments needed to further our understanding of the history and composition of our Solar System.

Work still in progress

Asteroids and comets are fascinating objects that can give or take life on a planetary scale. Experts around the world are putting all their energy and enthusiasm into deciphering the mysteries they carry within them.

With an early launch provisionally scheduled for 2011, Don Quijote will serve as a ‘technological scout’ not only to mitigate the chance of the Earth being hit by a large NEO but also for the ambitious journeys to explore our solar system that ESA will continue to embark upon. The studies now being carried out by European industry will bring the Don Quijote test mission one step nearer.

user posted image

The moments before impact... The Impactor spacecraft (Hidalgo) heads towards the target asteroid.

Credits: ESA - AOES Medialab

Note

Don Quijote is a NEO deflection test mission based entirely on conventional spacecraft technologies. It would comprise two spacecraft - one of them (Hidalgo) impacting an asteroid at a very high relative speed while a second one (Sancho) would arrive earlier at the same asteroid and remain in its vicinity before and after the impact to measure the variation on the asteroid’s orbital parameters, as well as to study the object. Secondary mission goals have also been defined, which would involve the deployment of an autonomous surface package and several other experiments and measurements.

Source: ESA - News

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Impressive article, and the pretty pictures only serve to increase the threads appeal. fascinating, really it is. :yes:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Impressive article, and the pretty pictures only serve to increase the threads appeal. fascinating, really it is. :yes:

I wish I could take credit for it, but that is more or less how the article appears on the ESA site.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

so we are crashing a spacecraft into an asteriod?............makes sense.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

so we are crashing a spacecraft into an asteriod?............makes sense.

Atually it makes a huge amount of sense. At sometime in the future we may need to deflect an asteroid. If we do not know the forces necessary to do this we don't have a huge amount of chance of getting it right. This will give us some information to work with.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Atually it makes a huge amount of sense. At sometime in the future we may need to deflect an asteroid. If we do not know the forces necessary to do this we don't have a huge amount of chance of getting it right. This will give us some information to work with.

how bout using a nuke to blow the asteriod to peices?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

how bout using a nuke to blow the asteriod to peices?

That's one of the things they need to find out. Depending on exactly how the asteroid is constructed using a nuke could potentially split the asteroid into several large pieces. This would lead to multiple impacts and could actually make things worse.

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf
corrected typo.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dealing with threatening space rocks


linked-image
The key moment of the Don Quijote mission: the Impactor spacecraft
(Hidalgo) smashes into the asteroid while observed, from a safe distance,
by the Orbiter spacecraft (Sancho)

Credits: ESA - AOES Medialab


20 September 2007
Every now and then a space rock hits the world's media – sometimes almost literally. Threatening asteroids that zoom past the Earth, fireballs in the sky seen by hundreds of people and mysterious craters which may have been caused by impacting meteorites; all make ESA's planned mission Don Quijote look increasingly timely.

The uncertainty surrounding whether a meteorite impacted in South America recently highlights the need to know more about these pieces of natural space debris and their trajectories. ESA has always been interested in such endeavours and conducted a number of studies into how it might best help.

Those studies showed that it is probably the smaller pieces of rock, at most a few hundred metres across, rather than the larger ones that we should be more worried about for the time being. A worldwide network of astronomers is currently cataloguing most of the larger objects, those above 1 km in diameter. A number of survey telescopes have taken up the challenge to detect as many as 90 percent of all near Earth objects down to a size of 140 metres by around 2020. Only after this time will we know whether space-based observatories will be needed to find the rest.

linked-image
People in southern Peru gaze at a crater made apparently by a meteorite 17 September
2007 in the department of Puno. Villagers were struck by a mysterious illness after the
meteorite crashed to Earth in their area, regional authorities said Monday. Around
midday Saturday, villagers were startled by an explosion and a fireball that many were
convinced was an airplane crashing near their remote village, located in the high Andes
department of Puno in the Desaguadero region, near the border with Bolivia. Residents
complained of headaches and vomiting.

Credits: AFP PHOTO/ANDINA/HO


Part of the trouble with these small chunks of rock is fixing their orbits. From the ground, it is very difficult – sometimes impossible – to determine their trajectory with enough precision to rule out impacts with our planet in the years to come. So, ESA have been concentrating on a mission to actually 'mark a cross' on small asteroids and check the state of the art of our technology. The Don Quijote mission is a project based on two phases. In the first phase, a spacecraft would rendezvous with an asteroid and go into orbit around it. It would monitor the asteroid for several months, precisely determining its position, shape, mass and gravity field.


In the second phase, another spacecraft would slam into the asteroid at a speed of around 10 km/s, while the first spacecraft watches, looking for any changes in the asteroid's trajectory. In this way, a mission involving two spacecraft would attempt to be the first to actually move an asteroid.

linked-image
The Don Quijote mission under study is based on two phases. In the first phase a spacecraft
(Sanchez) would rendezvous with an asteroid and go into orbit around it, monitoring it
for several months. In the second phase another spacecraft would slam into the asteroid,
while the first spacecraft watches, looking for any changes in the asteroid's trajectory.

If it becomes a reality, Don Quijote would launch sometime early in the
next decade.

Credits: ESA - AOES Medialab


In preparation for dealing with small asteroids, ESA's Don Quijote is also starting small. In its current design, the first spacecraft, Sancho, could reach any one of 5 or 6 small, nearby asteroids. Each one is no larger than a few hundred metres in diameter. At present, the mission planners have chosen to concentrate on Apophis, a small asteroid that can swing dangerously close to Earth on the outwards stretch of its orbit around the Sun.

If it becomes a reality, Don Quijote could launch sometime early in the next decade. Sancho would take some 25 months to reach its target. Once there, it would begin its groundbreaking study – both literally and metaphorically.

"The idea is to get the technology ready before you really need it," says Ian Carnelli, Technical Officer for the Don Quijote mission at ESA.


In 1908, a 20-metre asteroid impacted the uninhabited Tunguska forest in Siberia, toppling trees and causing total devastation over an area of two thousand square kilometres. Scientists predict this type of event to occur about every 150 years. Next year's 100th anniversary of that impact will be yet another reminder of the need to learn about and become ready to deal with asteroids – even the small ones.

For further information contact:

Ian Carnelli
Don Quijote Technical Officer
Tel: +31 71 56558117
Email: ian.carnelli@esa.int

Source: ESA - News

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.