This area will cover relevant news of the threat to the planet from Near Earth Objects (NEOs) including concepts and designs for mitigation. All opinions are those of the author.

18 May 2009

Texas A&M University Class Work on Apophis Exploration and Mitigation Mission Design

Selections from the Texas A&M news release (as well as presentations on the class projects for Fall 2008 and Spring 2009)...

Dr. David Hyland of Texas A&M University began work on an exploration mission to the asteroid Apophis in 2006. The students in three courses offered by Hyland designed APEP, the Apophis Preliminary Exploratory Platform. This mission was meant to just explore Apophis and track its movements. The end result would be a decision on whether or not the asteroid had a high chance of colliding with Earth.

In fall of 2008, the Deflect Apophis System (DAS) was designed by students in another class led by Hyland, AERO 426. The objective of the DAS was to move Apophis such that it would not collide with Earth.

The Apophis Exploration and Mitigation Platform (AEMP) is the current project, which involves a combination of both APEP and AEMP. First, the AEMP would stand some distance away from Apophis, taking of all of the necessary science measurements needed to deflect the asteroid. Then, it would employ a “gravity tractor” to begin movement. After a year, an “albedo change” substance would be adhered to the asteroid, forcing long term movement.

Pending ongoing discussions, AEMP may soon be a three-way partnership involving Texas A&M, NASA Ames and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, through King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology.

The concept of changing the albedo of an asteroid is a technique that is unique to Texas A&M. No other organization has designed a mission meant to use the manipulation of albedo as a way to move an asteroid. The albedo of an object is a measure of how reflective it is. The more reflective, the less heat it absorbs, and the less heat it emits as it cools. When the heat is emitted, a small force is created on the object. If the asteroid’s albedo is changed, this force can be manipulated to move Apophis over a long period of time.

Link: Texas A&M News Release

Link: DAS Class Project Overview (PDF)

Link: DAS Class Project Overview (PPT)

Link: Texas A&M Overview presentation (03 December 2008)

Link: Texas A&M Apophis Mitigation Research Project Kickoff Presentation (09 February 2009)

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