Asteroid Day AMA – We’re engineers and scientists working on a mission that could, one day, help save humankind from asteroid extinction. Ask us anything! : IAmA


Thanks everybody for the great, through-provoking questions, we had a lot of fun and you got us thinking! That’s all we have time for right now, but this was such a nice way to interact with you interesting people! We will login tomorrow to answer anymore questions that come in. While we were doing this the International Astronomical Union released the name for the asteroid we are targeting: Dimorphos! https://www.esa.int/Safety_Security/Hera/Name_given_to_asteroid_target_of_ESA_s_planetary_defence_mission

Next week is Asteroid Day where we raise awareness about the rocks that regularly zoom past Earth. We are a bunch of European Space Agency (ESA) experts on asteroids here to answer any questions you may have, from dinosaur extinction to asteroid mining and even deflection!

We are:

Paolo Martino – I am ESA’s system engineer for Hera that will be launched in 2024 to study what happens when NASA’s DART hits the Didymos Asteroid. We hope to prove humankind can actually deflect an asteroid. Originally from Italy, I spent more than ten years at ESA’s technical heart ESTEC working on several satellites. I have worked on the Hera mission since 2012. I can also answer any questions in Italian. (PM)

Marco Micheli – I am an Italian astronomer, my job is to observe asteroids that may be dangerous to our planet and calculate the risk they pose. I started doing this as an amateur astronomer when I was 16, and then, after a degree in physics and a PhD in Hawaii I was able to turn asteroid hunting into my daily job at ESA’s Near-Earth Object Coordination Centre. Our observations, taken with some of the largest and most powerful telescopes in the world, allow us to measure the position and trajectory of potentially dangerous asteroids, and predict close passages and possible collisions with our planet. I can answer your questions in Italian too. (MM)

Heli Greus – I am ESA’s Hera product assurance and safety manager making sure that after NASA’s DART probe hits Didymos we launch the Hera probe to observe what happens next and map the resulting impact crater after the dust has settled. We will also launch two CubeSats to fly closer to the asteroid’s surface. With all this information we can hopefully deflect asteroids that are a threat for humankind. I grew up in Finland but have been working at ESA’s technical heart in The Netherlands for 13 years. Feel free to ask questions in Suomi too! (HG)

Detlef Koschny – I am co-managing the Planetary Defence Office, part of ESA’s Space Safety programme that is working to protect our planet from asteroids, violent solar outbursts and the build-up of dangerous space debris. I have a passion for cosmic dust, meteors, fireballs, and other minor bodies in the solar system, in particular asteroids. I have worked on many planetary missions. Recently, I was involved in a study where we took videos of the surface of our European laboratory on the International Space Station to understand how many micro-meteoroids hit our module. Originally from Germany and now living in the Netherlands, I can answer questions in German and hopefully in Dutch, too. (DVK)

Aidan Cowley – Science Advisor for ESA and materials scientist working on human spaceflight and exploration, including in-situ resource utilisation to enable sustained exploration of other worlds (and asteroids!) by using resources available in space. For example we developed [3d-printing from lunar regolith to build a moon base (http://www.esa.int/Enabling_Support/Space_Engineering_Technology/Building_a_lunar_base_with_3D_printing). (AC)

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