IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


5th July, 2024 Science and Technology


Source: NASA

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  • ISRO Chairman S. Somanath has articulated a clear vision for India's active participation in global efforts to shield Earth from asteroids.
  • Highlighting India’s recent advancements in space exploration, he underscored the importance of international collaboration in developing effective planetary defense systems.


Key Points

  • Planetary defense is a global challenge that requires the combined efforts of multiple nations. No single country can handle the task alone, and collaborative missions are essential to tackle the potential threats posed by asteroids.
  • India aims to play a significant role in international missions focused on asteroid research and defense.
  • Asteroid Apophis Mission: India could contribute instruments or other support to missions led by agencies like NASA, ESA, and JAXA aimed at studying Apophis in 2029.
  • ISRO's proficiency in precise spacecraft navigation, demonstrated through recent missions, positions India as a valuable partner in asteroid-related projects.

Global efforts to shield Earth from asteroids

NASA's Planetary Defense Strategy

  • NASA has a comprehensive planetary defense strategy focusing on detecting and mitigating asteroid threats.
  • Key components include:
  • Near-Earth Object (NEO) Surveys: NASA's NEO Observations Program is dedicated to discovering, tracking, and characterizing NEOs. This includes the use of ground-based telescopes and space missions such as NEOWISE, which has discovered and characterized many asteroids and comets.
  • DART Mission: The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is NASA's first mission dedicated to testing a method of asteroid deflection. It aims to impact the smaller body of the binary asteroid system Didymos to change its orbit, demonstrating a potential method to protect Earth from hazardous asteroids.
  • Asteroid Deflection Technologies: NASA is exploring various technologies for asteroid deflection, including kinetic impactors, gravity tractors, and nuclear devices. These technologies aim to either alter the course of an asteroid or destroy it before it can impact Earth.

European Space Agency (ESA)

  • ESA is actively involved in planetary defense through its Space Safety Programme.
  • Key initiatives include:
  • Hera Mission: Complementing NASA's DART mission, Hera will visit the Didymos asteroid system post-impact to gather detailed measurements and provide valuable data on the deflection test's outcome.
  • NEO Coordination Centre: ESA's NEO Coordination Centre in Italy serves as the central hub for data analysis and dissemination concerning NEOs detected by various observatories across the globe.

International Collaborations

  • Global collaboration is crucial for effective planetary defense.
  • Key international efforts include:
  • International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN): IAWN facilitates communication among astronomers and space agencies worldwide, ensuring the rapid dissemination of information about potential asteroid threats.
  • Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG): SMPAG, formed by the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), coordinates international space missions to prepare for and respond to NEO threats.

Notable Techniques and Approaches

  • Kinetic Impactors: This method involves sending a spacecraft to collide with an asteroid to change its trajectory. The DART mission is a prime example of this technique in action.
  • Gravity Tractors: A spacecraft hovers near an asteroid, using its gravitational pull to slowly alter the asteroid's path over time. This method requires precise navigation and long-term monitoring.
  • Nuclear Explosions: Although controversial, using nuclear devices to either deflect or fragment an asteroid is considered a last-resort measure. This approach is still theoretical and would require careful planning to avoid creating multiple hazardous fragments.
  • Monitoring and Detection Systems: Continuous improvement of ground-based and space-based telescopes is essential for early detection of potential threats. Projects like the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) and the Flyeye Telescope are pivotal in these efforts​.

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Q: Global efforts to protect Earth from asteroids involve a multi-faceted approach combining advanced technology, international cooperation, and rigorous scientific research. Discuss. (250 Words)