London, Jan 23 (ANI): A new international project called NEOShield is set to assess the threat posed by Near Earth Objects (NEO) and look at the best possible solutions for dealing with a big asteroid or comet on a collision path with our planet.
The effort is being led from the German space agency's (DLR) Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin, and had its kick-off meeting this week.
It will draw on expertise from across Europe, Russia and the US, the BBC reported.
It's a major EU-funded initiative that will pull together all the latest science, initiate a fair few laboratory experiments and new modelling work, and then try to come to some definitive positions.
Industrial partners, which include the German, British and French divisions of the big Astrium space company, will consider the engineering architecture required to deflect one of these bodies out of our path.
"We're going to collate all the scientific information with a view to mitigation," said project leader Prof Alan Harris at DLR.
"What do you need to know about an asteroid in order to be able to change its course - to deflect it from a catastrophic course with the Earth?" he stated.
It's likely that NEOShield will, at the end of its three-and-a-half-year study period, propose to the politicians that they launch a mission to demonstrate the necessary technology.
This mission might look like NASA's Deep Impact mission of 2005, or the Don Quijote mission that Europe designed but never launched. It involves perhaps a shepherding spacecraft releasing an impactor to strike the big rock or comet.
This gentle nudge, depending when and how it's done, could change the velocity of the rock ever so slightly to make it arrive "at the crossroads" sufficiently early or late to miss Earth.
"The amount of debris, or ejecta, produced in the impact would affect the momentum of the NEO," explained Prof Harris.
"Of course, that will depend on what sort of asteroid it is - its physical characteristics. What's its surface like; how porous or dense it is? This is really something you would want to test with a demonstration mission," he added. (ANI)
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