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.

26 February 2008

SpaceWorks Engineering, Inc. (SEI) and SpaceDev, Inc. Win Planetary Society's International Apophis Mission Design Competition

Finally the results...our team consisting of SpaceWorks Engineering and SpaceDev won the Apophis Mission Design Competition. Congratulations to our entire team and the rest of the winners. Here is a summary with links to press releases, news stories, etc.


Engineering services and concept development firm SpaceWorks Engineering, Inc. (SEI) and innovative space systems provider SpaceDev, Inc. announce that their Foresight radio beacon spacecraft design has won the Planetary Society's international Apophis mission design competition. The competition' s purpose was to design a "tagging" mission to improve knowledge of the asteroid Apophis' orbit. More than thirty international teams entered the contest.


Link: SEI Press Release
Link: Planetary Society competition summary page
Link: Planetary Society press release
Link: Planetary Society winners announcement

A two page executive summary of the Foresight spacecraft can be found here: Foresight Flyer.

SEI/SpaceDev's five page presentation from the press conference at the Planetary Society on 26 February 2008 can be found here: Foresight Presentation at The Planetary Society Press Conference.

The full report can be found here: Foresight Final Report.

Foresight spacecraft images can be found below and at the SEI Image Gallery.

Other Media Stories:
Link: article
Link: BBC News Article

06 February 2008

Planetary Society's Target Earth Initiative on NEO Threat (also update on results for their Apophis Mission Design Competition, now mid to late Feb.)

Asteroid impact on early Earth. Some scientists believe that impacts such as this during the Late Heavy Bombardment period, 4 billion years ago, may have delivered primitive life to Earth. Credit: Don Davis.

Selections from the news release...

To mark the 100th anniversary of the Tunguska event, when an exploding asteroid leveled 2000 square kilometers of Siberian forest, The Planetary Society today kicked off a year-long focus on Target Earth. The asteroid believed responsible for the cataclysm on June 30, 1908 became a fireball from the sky and knocked pine trees over like matchsticks near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in Russia. Such an explosion today over more populated areas could lay waste an entire city.

Target Earth will focus on a variety of NEO projects supported by The Planetary Society, including the Apophis Mission Design Competition, the Gene Shoemaker Near Earth Object Grants, NEO mission advocacy, and a one-hour HD TV “Daily Planet” special on asteroids being produced by Discovery Canada.

In mid-to late February, the Society will announce the winners of the Apophis Mission Design Competition
, which invited participants to compete for $50,000 in prizes by designing a mission to rendezvous with and "tag" a potentially dangerous near-Earth asteroid. The competition received 37 mission proposals from 19 countries on 6 continents.

"Planetary Society Takes Aim at Target Earth"
Planetary Society News Release
29 January 2008

Link: Planetary Society News Release on "Target Earth": 29 January 2008

Update on 2007 WD5

From Planetary Society Blog (Emily Lakdawalla)...

"WD5 most likely missed Mars, but we may never know"
Feb. 4, 2008 | 12:15 PST | 20:15 UTC

I just chatted with Steven Chesley of JPL's Near Earth Object program about the fate of 2007 WD5, the could-have-hit-Mars-but-most-likely-didn't asteroid. He said that based on the orbit predicted from the last observations of the asteroid, which were taken on January 9, they think it missed Mars by 6.5 Mars radii, which is a near miss in solar system terms but very far from the bull's eye if what you really wanted to see from the encounter was a new crater on Mars. (For those of you interested in the statistics, I asked him what the 1-sigma and 3-sigma uncertainties in the miss distance were; they were 1.8 and 2.2 Mars radii, respectively.)

Now, a 6.5-Mars-radius flyby is quite close enough to alter the course of WD5 significantly. Where's it going to go next? The answer is, no one knows. The uncertainty surrounding WD5's exact position with respect to Mars during the encounter hugely balloons when you try to figure out its future path. It essentially got a gravity assist from Mars, but without knowing exactly at what distance and, equally importantly, at what latitude it flew past the planet, we have no idea where Mars flung it. Mars isn't big enough to send an asteroid right out of the solar system (only Jupiter has strong enough gravity to pull off that trick), but a close flyby can really seriously change the orbit of a small body like WD5.

Link: Planetary Society Blog
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