Developing Planetary Protection Systems Against Asteroids


11:39 AM

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Developing Planetary Protection Systems Against Asteroids Blog Image

What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in News?
  • What is Asteroid Impact Avoidance?
  • India’s Journey in Planetary Defence
  • India’s Future in Planetary Defence

Why in News?

  • Speaking to mark the Asteroid Day 2024 (June 30), ISRO Chairman emphasised the necessity of international collaboration in developing planetary protection systems against asteroids.
  • He also highlighted India's ambition and qualifications to join global missions focused on asteroid research and defence prior to the Apophis asteroid and Earth having a close encounter on April 13, 2029.

What is Asteroid Impact Avoidance?

  • It encompasses the methods by which near-Earth objects (NEO) on a potential collision course with Earth could be diverted away, preventing destructive impact events.
  • An impact by a sufficiently large asteroid or other NEOs would cause massive tsunamis or multiple firestorms, depending on its impact location.
  • A collision 66 million years ago between the Earth and an object approximately 10 km/ 6 miles wide is thought to have
    • Produced the Chicxulub crater (buried underneath the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico), and
    • Triggered the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event that is believed to have caused the extinction of all non-avian dinosaurs.
  • While the chances of a major collision are low in the near term, it is a near-certainty that one will happen eventually unless defensive measures are taken.
  • In 2022, NASA spacecraft Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART)impacted Dimorphous, reducing the minor-planet moon's orbital period by 32 minutes.
    • This mission constitutes the first successful attempt at asteroid deflection.
  • In 2025, China’s CNSA plans to launch another deflection mission to near-Earth object 2019 VL5, a 30-metre-wide (100 ft.) asteroid.
    • This will include both an impactor and observer spacecraft.

India’s Journey in Planetary Defence:

  • Observing Apophis:
    • In 2004, Indian observatories were able to see an object that was 340 metres in size.
    • They came to the conclusion that there is a substantial risk that this asteroid will reach and impact Earth.
    • The object is known as Apophis, and its sphere is 360 days (almost one Earth year), and it can often be seen in the vicinity of Earth.
    • On April 13, 2029, it will come to a distance of around 32,000 km away from Earth and there is a fear that if there is any change in gravity, it will have an impact on Earth in 2036.
  • ISRO’s plans for Apophis:
    • ISRO is looking to study the asteroid in 2029 in order to prepare for planetary defence efforts to prevent the asteroid from crashing onto Earth.
    • For this, ISRO could be collaborating with the Apophis asteroid mission - a joint mission of JAXA, ESA and NASA.

India’s Future in Planetary Defence:

  • Opportunities:
    • While asteroids pose potential threats to Earth, they also offer significant opportunities for scientific discovery, potentially revealing insights into the universe's formation and the origins of life on earth.
    • As a major spacefaring nation with the capability to carry out complex missions of taking a spacecraft from one place to another, India will be in a position to
      • Handle an asteroid mission,
      • Land on an asteroid, and
      • Possibly carry out a planetary defence action to protect Earth.
    • India should start by collaborating with other nations that have already started work in this area. For example, Japan’s JAXA has gone to an asteroid and collected samples.
    • ISRO should also be a part of the worldwide planetary defence programme in collaboration with other agencies.
  • Funding challenges: With ISRO heavily invested in the human space mission to launch an astronaut into space, the space agency is believed to be lacking funds for new projects like asteroid missions.

Learning from NASA’s DART mission: The DART mission shows the possibilities of imparting a change of trajectory to an asteroid and causing it to depart from its course.

Q.1. Why is World Asteroid Day celebrated?

The World Asteroid Day is celebrated on June 30th every year to spread awareness among the public about the potential danger posed by asteroids or 'near earth objects'.

Q.2. What is the mission of NASA Apophis?

OSIRIS-APEX is a mission to study the physical changes to asteroid Apophis that will result from its rare close encounter with Earth in April 2029.

Source: ISRO seeks active role in global efforts to shield earth from asteroids | IE