The European Space Agency has selected asteroids 2002 AT4 and (10302) 1989 ML as mission targets for mission Don Quijote. They will make a pick
between them in 2007 and choose which one to impact. Don Quijote will be a Near-Earth Objects deflection test mission which will consist of two
spacecrafts, an orbiter ("Sancho") and an impactor ("Hidalgo"). "Sancho" will rendezvous with a target asteroid and then "Hidalgo" will crash
into it. "Sancho" will calculate the asteroid´s orbit before and after impact and find out if the mission was a success or not. If the mission is
a success the asteroid´s orbit will be shifted. This will be the first step towards the development of a means to tackle asteroid impacts.
"Artist's impression on an asteroid impact with the Earth."
Based on the recommendations of asteroid experts, ESA has selected two target asteroids for its Near-Earth Object deflecting mission, Don Quijote.
On 19 December 2004 MN4, an asteroid of about 400 m, lost since its discovery six months earlier, was observed again and its orbit was computed. It
immediately became clear that the chances that it could hit the Earth during a close encounter in 2029 were unusually high. As the days passed the
probability did not decrease and the asteroid became notorious for surpassing all previous records in the Torino and Palermo impact risk scales
ESA has selected asteroids 2002 AT4 and (10302) 1989 ML as mission targets because they represent best compromise among all the (sometimes
conflicting) selection criteria. A decision on which of the two will become the final destination of both Sancho and Hidalgo spacecraft will be made
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.
Asteroid 2004 MN has now been given an official designation, (99942) Apophis. Recent observations using Doppler radar using Arecibo radio telescope in
Puerto Rico have reduced the impact probability during future encounters to very small levels, though they have not totally ruled out an Earth impact.
In 2029, the asteroid will have the closest approach ever witnessed for an object of this size, swinging by the Earth at a distance of around 32,000
kilometres. Its trajectory will be well within the geosynchronous orbit used by most telecommunications and weather satellites, and the object will be
visible to the naked eye. Further radar measurements are expected in 2013.
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Asteroid 2004 MN4 is a real threat. Hopefully the Don Quijote mission will be a success so we would be able to shift the orbit of Asteroid 2004 MN4
(or any other NEO threat) with a kamikaze-attack...
"Hidalgo impacts with the asteroid while Sancho, with an attitude appropriate to its name, retreats to a safe distance to observe the impact without
taking unnecessary risk. Credits: ESA/Deimos Space"
I allready got all your backs on this one. We are all set.
I bought a bunch of laser pointers. If I see anything getting close ill just shine them all on the asteroid and alter its path by heating up one
side. We should be fine, and only cost me a few bucks...If that doesnt work I have some bottle rockets...
Finally some initiative being taken on this sort of thing. I don't imagine it'll be a huge success (and neither do they, based upon the naming of
the mission) but we desperately need to get some experience under our belt so we can start to think about this sort of thing.
They are going to ram a 500 kg object with no explosives into a 1,600 foot diameter asteroid with about a billion pounds of mass and expect to alter
its orbit? They call themselves physicists? They are certainly not mathematicians.
Calculate yourself from these know asteroid masses.
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