Brussels, 12 August 2002
Following recent media stories analysing the possibility of an asteroid hitting Earth in 2019, a Spanish company has revealed that it is working with the European space agency (ESA) to produce a method of diverting and monitoring asteroids.
The company, Deimos Space, is already working on a feasibility study for its Don Quixote mission project with funding from ESA. The outline of the project is to send two probe spacecraft towards an asteroid, one to hit and divert it, the other to monitor the changes and relay the information back to Earth. If, when the feasibility study is completed early in 2003, full funding is allocated to the project, an asteroid will be selected for a full test.
In practice, this will mean that an asteroid will be hit by one of the space craft at a speed of around 10 kilometres a second. The anticipated change in course will be a few millimetres, which will be monitored by the other spacecraft. This information would reveal the kind of impact that would be needed to divert an asteroid from hitting Earth.
Apart from the scientific benefits of the mission, the Don Quixote project is also aimed at seeing if this way of dealing with rogue asteroids is affordable. 'We are trying to demonstrate the feasibility of the mission, not only in terms of astrodynamic calculations or technology requirements, but also financially, 'said Jose Antonio Gonzalez of Deimos Space.