The European Space Agency is seeking research ideas to help guide development of a joint US-European asteroid deflection mission now under study.
The Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA) mission would consist of two space probes, which would be launched toward a binary asteroid.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, would collide with the smaller of the two asteroids, while the Asteroid Impact Monitor (AIM) surveys the asteroids in detail, before and after the collision. DART is being designed by the Johns Hopkins Advanced Physics Laboratory in the US, with support from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Johnson Space Center, and JPL. AIM is being designed by ESA.
The DART mission would also include ground-based observations to measure the deflection independently of AIM. This ensures that the DART impact would return return useful data even if AIM failed. Working together, the two probes would return data on momentum transfer and characteristics of the resulting crater.
ESA is seeking concepts for ground- and space-based investigations to improve understanding of high-speed collisions between man-made and natural objects in space.
The AIDA design study is a successor to the Don Quijote study, which ESA completed in July 2005. Like AIDA, Don Quijote involved two probes: an orbiter called Sancho and an impactor called Hidalgo. Sancho would arrive at the asteroid several months prior to Hidalgo to accurately measure the body’s position, shape, mass, and gravity field.
Don Quijote differed from AIDA in planning to target a single asteroid, of about 500 meters diameter, rather than a binary asteroid. Construction of the Don Quixote probes could have begun in 2006, if the project had been approved. Unfortunately, that did not happen. We hope AIDA will have better luck.