Near-Earth Objects are one of the major threats to our existence on the planet. It is so critical that NASA has established an entire new office to coordinate the detection, tracking and mitigation of Near-Earth Objects (NEOs). The IAU Minor Planet Center, the official body responsible for the identification and designation of minor planets and comets, states that in the first 24 days of 2016, 139 Near Earth Objects have been discovered. It is critical that the challenges of NEO detection and mitigation are well researched and effective solutions developed.

This animation shows the motion of objects in the inner region of the solar system over a two-year period at 10-day intervals. Light blue - orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, Green circles- Main-belt minor planets, Red circles -Near-Earth asteroids. Blue squares-Comets. credits: IAU Minor Planet Center

This animation shows the motion of objects in the inner region of the solar system over a two-year period at 10-day intervals. Light blue – orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars; Green circles- Main-belt minor planets; Red circles -Near-Earth asteroids; Blue squares-Comets. credits: IAU Minor Planet Center

NEOShield-2

One of the significant efforts to tackle this issue is the NEOShield-2 project. It is the second phase of the NEOShield project that carried out detailed analysis of the various mitigation options for preventing NEO collisions. NEOShield-2 continues the work by addressing “the near-Earth object (NEO) impact hazard and feasible mitigation measures”. The primary aims include the development of technologies essential for in-orbit mitigation and extensive characterization of the 50-300m diameter NEO population.

Preparing to tackle NEOs can be an expensive process involving cutting-edge research. Rather than funding space missions, this project focuses on areas where further research and development is necessary and on facilitating better predictions of the consequences of an impact. The two main focus areas are the development of essential techniques and instruments needed for guidance, navigation and control (GNC) in close vicinity of asteroids and comets and better characterization of the NEOs. The tasks are accomplished through 12 Working Groups such as orbit determination and monitoring, NEO data analysis and modeling, public outreach and project coordination

NEOShield-2 will conduct observations of NEOs to gain more information on their physical traits. It will also identify NEOs for carrying out demonstration missions. In addition to acquiring new data, analyses of potentially hazardous objects will be carried out based on published data. Finally, it will also attempt to design an international strategy or “roadmap” for responding to the discovery of a significant impact threat.

The project  is funded by the European Union under Horizon 2020 in the category of “Access technologies and characterisation for Near Earth Objects (NEOs)”. Several partners from industry and academia are involved in NEOShield-2 : Airbus DS GmbH (Project Coordinator), Deutsches Zentrum für Luft – und Raumfahrt eV, Airbus Defence and Space SAS, Airbus Defence and Space LTD, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Deimos Space Sociedad Limitada Unipersonal, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Angewandten Forschung eV, GMV Aerospace and Defence SA Unipersonal, Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, Observatoire de Paris, and The Queen’s University of Belfast.

 Source: NEOShield -2

About the author

Ramasamy Venugopal

Ramasamy Venugopal

Born and brought up in India, Ramasamy has a bachelor's in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Anna University, Chennai and a Master in Space Studies from the International Space University, Strasbourg. He has experience in the telecommunication industry having worked at Ericsson and Verizon India. His major interests are Astronomy, Planetary science, space advocacy and outreach.