Asteroid Day: Support the AIM Asteroid Mission!

Posted by David Eicher
on Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Asteroid Day is an annual event held to raise awareness of asteroid research.


The recently completed Rosetta Mission hailed for both its technical and engineering feats as well as scientific discovery,  captured the world’s attention. Not only was Rosetta the first-ever successful attempt to land on a comet, it also returned a powerhouse of scientific knowledge about small bodies in our Solar System. ESA woke up the “Sleeping Beauty” while the world watched and cheered.

Now we must go further, with the launch of the European Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) as part of the international AIDA mission. We want to make sure that the heritage of Rosetta, in terms of technology and expertise, continues - leading to new missions and further innovation. As citizens of our Solar System, we need to expand our body of knowledge of the Universe in which we live.

Of the near-Earth objects (NEOs) so far discovered, there are more than 1700 asteroids currently considered hazardous. Unlike other natural disasters, this is one we know how to predict and potentially prevent with early discovery. As such, it is crucial to our knowledge and understanding of asteroids to determine whether a kinetic impactor is able to deflect the orbit of such a small body, in case Earth is threatened. This is what AIDA will help us assess.

AIM would launch in October 2020 to travel to a binary asteroid system – the paired Didymos asteroids, which will come within 16 million km of Earth in 2022. The 800m-diameter asteroid is orbited by a 160m moon. This smaller body is AIM’s focus: the spacecraft will perform high-resolution measurements of the moon to build detailed maps of its surface, sub-surface, and interior structures, the first time this is done on such a small body. If approved, AIM would be Europe’s contribution to the larger Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment mission: AIDA. Around four months after AIM's arrival, the NASA-led part of AIDA will arrive: the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) probe will crash straight into the asteroid moon.

Rosetta was a bold mission whose spirit we believe must be continued with AIDA and its AIM mission. With AIM, we continue that audacious journey of discovery into the structure of asteroids – expanding our knowledge of the building blocks of planetary systems, and in particular our Solar System. AIM is the ideal test-bed for new technologies and the perfect stepping stone toward more complex deep space missions.

Asteroids are marvels of planetary systems, in particular our Solar System. Like comets, they are left over matter from the formation of planets, rich in minerals and rich in scientific knowledge of the early history of our Solar System. Additionally, these NEOs could provide an economic source of extraterrestrial materials for continued human exploitation.

Therefore, we, the undersigned signatories, strongly urge governments and policy makers to keep small bodies missions, such as the already launched Hayabusa-2 and Osiris-Rex and the upcoming AIDA/AIM, high on the agenda to add to the body of knowledge begun by Rosetta.

You can sign a letter of support for the mission here:

And please watch this video here:


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