Why ESA Scientists Really Want to Crash a Satellite into an Asteroid


On December 1 and 2, the ministers from the European Space Agency’s 22 member states will convene in Lucerne, Switzerland to discuss future ESA missions and how to fund them. This meeting will determine the scope of Europe’s activities in space for the coming years, but due to current political and economic difficulties affecting many of the ESA’s member states, the meeting is expected to be particularly “challenging.”

By Daniel Oberhaus | MOTHERBOARD

One of the biggest topics on the table at the conference is the ESA’s involvement in the Asteroid Impact and Deflection mission (AIDA), a joint venture between NASA and the European Space Agency which will involve the launch of two spacecraft to an asteroid in 2020. However ESA’s ability to fund their part of this mission will require the member states to pledge roughly €250 million in funding (which is actually pretty modest, as far as space missions go) at the conference—which in light of the economic situation in Europe is far from certain.

“Nothing is for sure until the [mission approval] is signed,” Patrick Michel, a planetary scientist and senior researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research, told Motherboard. “Even if I’m optimistic and see the high potential of this mission, I know that some countries would be happy to make this mission, but can’t afford it. Their budgets are very, very tight so we need to push until the end and keep up the pressure.”

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