CCNet, 35/2003 -  27 March 2003

"The studies have shown that the space option is realistic and that it should be considered seriously in the context of current and future efforts to deal with the NEO threat. They have demonstrated the interest of the proposed scientific investigations, provided feasible technical solutions and explored cost-effective ways to implement them. Currently a programme providing the necessary level of resources for the immediate development of
this missions is lacking, both in ESA and elsewhere."
--Andrés Gálvez, ESA

"The conclusions of the OECD Workshop are in the form of recommendations that will be presented to the OECD GSF plenary session next June. The document has not yet been finalized and therefore cannot be reported here; however, a few comments on its "spirit" can be made. A first important point is that the NEO threat is recognized as real, although of very low frequency. The consequence of this finding is that actions should be taken to try to better understand the nature of the problem."
--Andrea Carusi, President, The Spaceguard Foundation

    ESA Media Relations <>

    Tumbing Stone, 23 March 2003

    Tumbing Stone, 23 March 2003

    Tumbling Stone, 23 March 2003

    Jiji Press, 26 March 2003

    Jacqueline Mitton <>

    Nick Sault <>

    Suff, 21 March 2003


>From ESA Media Relations <>

Paris, 26 March 2003
Press Release
N° 19-2003

ESA Studies Missions to Safeguard the Earth

Early on the morning of 30 June 1908, the vast forest of western Siberia was illuminated by a strange apparition: an alien object streaking across the cloudless sky.  White hot from its headlong plunge into the Earth's atmosphere, the intruder exploded about 8 km above the ground, flattening trees over an area of 2000 square kilometres.

Despite the huge detonation, equivalent to a 10 megaton nuclear warhead (about 500 times the energy of the Hiroshima atomic bomb), there were few if any casualties in the sparsely populated taiga.  If the Tunguska object - probably an asteroid about twice the size of a tennis court - had exploded over London or Paris, the list of casualties would have run into millions.

Fortunately, cataclysmic events caused by incoming near-earth objects (NEOs) are few and far between. Current estimates suggest that a 50 metre Tunguska-like object is likely to collide with the Earth once every 100-300 years [interesting: I guess ESA is simply not up-to-date with the lastest research, BP]. A 1 km object, which typically arrives every few hundred thousand years, could wipe out an entire country. An impact in the ocean would be no better, generating enormous waves (known as tsunamis) that would devastate coastal areas thousands of kilometres away.

An increasing awareness of the potentially disastrous consequences of such impacts has driven recent efforts to detect and categorise the larger Earth-threatening objects. However, much more needs to be done if the millions of Tunguska-like objects are to be found and catalogued. Only
then can advance warning of pending impacts be provided and measures be taken to reduce the threat.

Despite the introduction of increasingly sophisticated search programmes in various parts of the world, the search for objects heading our way needs to expand into space.  Only space-based observatories can provide the all-sky coverage required and detect Earth-crossing objects that would normally be hidden in the glare of the Sun.

In July 2002 the general studies programme of the European Space Agency (ESA) provided funding for preliminary studies on six space missions that could make significant contributions to our knowledge of NEOs.

"The six proposals were selected because the mission concepts would help to answer essential questions on the NEO threat, such as how many there are, their size and mass, and whether they are compact bodies or loose rock aggregates," said Andrés Gálvez, head of the Advanced Concepts Team at ESA's European Space Research Technology Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands.

"This information, as well as other data, is needed before appropriate mitigation procedures can be developed," he said.

"There are two broad categories. The observatory missions are able to detect and track many more NEOs than can be seen from the ground. This enables astronomers to calculate their orbits and predict whether they will offer a threat to the Earth far into the future."

"The flyby/rendezvous missions are designed to look at a small number of NEOs in great detail, sending back information on their size, composition, density, internal structure and so on.  This is important because we need to know as much as possible about how they will behave if we try to divert them from a collision course with Earth."

The six missions under study were:

ˇ Don Quijote: This proposal involves the launch of two spacecraft to test technologies required to deflect an asteroid heading towards Earth. The 'Hidalgo' spacecraft will be targeted to impact a 500-metre-diameter asteroid at a relative speed of 10 km/s. Its companion, known as 'Sancho'
will deliver a number of sensors to the surface of the asteroid and observe from a safe distance what happens during and after the high speed collision. This will provide valuable information on the NEO's internal structure.

ˇ Earthguard 1: A proposal to mount a "hitchhiker" telescope on a spacecraft en route to the inner Solar System, e.g. ESA's BepiColombo Mercury orbiter. The telescope would detect Earth-crossing asteroids larger than about 100 metres, which are very difficult or impossible to detect with ground-based telescopes.

ˇ EUNEOS: A medium-sized telescope mounted on a dedicated spacecraft platform that would search for the most dangerous NEOs from inside the orbit of Venus. Its main goal is to detect 80% of the potentially hazardous objects down to a few hundreds of metres in size. It is estimated that this could be attained in 5 years. By systematic re-detection of the objects, their orbits would then be determined with high accuracy.

ˇ ISHTAR: In addition to measuring the mass, density and surface properties of an NEO, this spacecraft would probe the interior of an NEO in order to study its structure and internal strength. This would be done using radar tomography, a new technology that uses ground-penetrating radar to make images of the interior of a solid body.

ˇ SIMONE: A fleet of five low-cost microsatellites that would each fly by and/or rendezvous with a different type of NEO. Each spacecraft would carry a suite of scientific instruments that would provide valuable insights into the nature of large asteroids (400 - 1 000 metres in diameter) with different physical and compositional properties. Low-thrust ion propulsion would be used to rendezvous with each target.

ˇ Remote observation of NEOs from Space: A space-based observatory to carry out remote sensing and detect physical characteristics of NEOs, such as size, composition and surface properties.

"We now have a number of excellent proposals that are both feasible and affordable," said Franco Ongaro, head of ESA's Advanced Concepts & Studies Office.

"These phase A studies by industry and academia, which were completed in January 2003, provide a valuable framework for developing future missions. They will now be discussed within the Agency and with ESA's international partners in order to determine how best to proceed."

ESA NEO studies:
ESA Advanced Concepts Team:

For further information, please contact:
ESA Media Relations Service
Tel: +33(0)
Fax: +33(0)


>From Tumbing Stone, 23 March 2003

On June 2002, ESA has selected 6 different and complemetary space mission projects about NEOs for a Phase A study (see T.S. number 15). By february 2003 the companies, universities and research institutes that presented the initial proposals, carried out the studies for preliminary mission analysis and design and presented these results in a public conference held in ESRIN, Frascati.
The 6 studies, funded by ESA's General Studies Programme, were carried out with the technical support of the Spaceguard Central Node, which is now hosted by ESA and has started its activity to support ESA's Science Programme in all issues related to NEOs.

Click on the images below to read a short resumé of the final descriptions of the 6 projects. In these pages you will find images, videos, interviews to the project managers and other interesting documents.

>From Tumbing Stone, 23 March 2003 

An interview with Andrés Gálvez, ESA's representative in charge of following the 6 projects

1) A comment on the final results of this call for missions. Which results have been achieved ?

"Previous work had already pointed at the advantages of observing and studying NEOs from space. It is now clear that this possibility should be regarded as a necessary complement to ground-based observations. The studies have shown that the space option is realistic and that it should be considered seriously in the context of current and future efforts to deal with the NEO threat. They have demonstrated the interest of the proposed scientific investigations, provided feasible technical solutions and explored cost-effective ways to implement them."

2) A final comment on each of the 6 projects. What are the chances for one (or more) of these 6 projects to pass to Phase A and become a real ESA mission?

"Currently a programme providing the necessary level of resources for the immediate development of this missions is lacking, both in ESA and elsewhere. It is clear to everyone that this is a global threat that should very likely be dealt with as international cooperation venture, possibly involving different space agencies and international organisations. The studies are therefore as building blocks in such context, and hopefully they will be taken as such when a programme is created. The mission concepts that have been assessed are complementary to one another, they all address issues of the outmost importance. Of course, there are scientific priorities, and also technical and financial constraints that will determine which one of them is developed first. In my opinion, as NEOs is threat that can potentially affect everyone and that is easily perceived by the general public, it is important to involve laypeople throughout the project, as much as possible. The importance of public support should not be underestimated."

3) Do you think that any of the technologies developed in these projects may find some further application (for example in other scientific projects or in industrial applications)?

"They will definitely find application in the design of future space missions, and they will indirectly contribute to developments of many other fields. The most obvious example that I can think of is process control. In order keep the operation cost as low as possible these missions will require a high degree of autonomy. Therefore simple and reliable fault-tolerant control software algorithms will be used, that could have many applications both in industry (e.g. automated processing and manufacturing) and everyday life (e.g. transportation)."

4) What was your personal role in this project? Which main difficulties did you meet on your way, collaborating both with scientists and industries?

"I was managing the technical aspects of the study from ESA side, and I tried to provide advise and guidance so that the studies can be as useful as possible in later phases i.e design and development, and more immediately, to help us define ESA's next steps on this subject. I had never worked before which such a large number of specialist of all backgrounds in the context of a single project. Before starting I though that it might be difficult for us to communicate with such a large group and to transmit them our views, and even for them to communicate among themselves. After all everyone has different approaches to each problem and this is of course reflected in the way they work as part of a team. But from the very beginning of the project all these concerns proved to have no basis, everyone had a very open attitude and seemed to understand that the cooperation between different disciplines is essential for the success of project like this one. For me personally, working with them has given me an insight into many NEOs and space mission design related disciplines, and it has also been an interesting experience from the personal point of view, I have certainly enjoyed working with them."


An interview with Giovanni Valsecchi, Director of the SCN

1) What are the scientific objectives of the 6 projects? Can you comment on their importance?

"The missions can be grouped in two sets of three: a first one, consisting essentially of space-based observatories, aimed at physical studies in the IR (the Alenia study) or at discovery (EUNEOS and Earthguard). IR observations from space have already shown their potential in the past, so they would be an important tool to increase our knowledge of the various sub-populations of NEOs. The possibility of making optical discoveries from a vantage point inside the orbit of the Earth cuts down substantially the time to find a given large fraction of the potentially hazardous objects, even of small size, and solves the problem of discovering objects with orbital geometries not favourable to the discovery from the Earth

The second groups of missions is aimed at in-situ studies, in each case using innovative concepts, in order to obtain the scientific knowledge about the targets that is relevant for the planning of mitigation actions.

In the case of Don Quijote, apart from the gathering of information on the internal properties and of the dynamical state, an actual deflection experiment is planned, in order to test the actual procedure in case it were needed.

ISHTAR uses an innovative radar to obtain detailed information on the interior of a couple of asteroids, to make it possible to understand the best deflection strategies.
SIMONE takes a different approach: since the population we are studying is so numerous, the idea is to use a fleet of small, relatively inexpensive spacecraft to explore a larger number of them, say five. The in situ exploration would be less deep than in the cases of the other two missions, but this would be compensated by the larger number of bodies explored."

2) On behalf of ESA scientists of the Spaceguard Central Node have followed all the six studies; what has been their role?

"Since ESA had never before dealt with NEO mission studies, they have felt that the involvement of SCN people, with their specific experience in this rapidly evolving field, could help the ESA technical people, as well as the industrial and scientific mission teams, in the development of the studies. Thus, each study has been followed also by a member of the SCN, in addition to the ESA personnel that normally has this task."

3) In some cases (Don Quijote, EUNEOS, Earthguard) SCN people were involved also "on the other side", as scientific consultants: what has been the role, in this case? And what would the role of the SCN in case one of these missions were funded?

"In all these cases the SCN people involved have studied how the data would be disseminated to the scientific community. In the cases of EUNEOS and Earthguard, they have studied how the ground-based follow-up work should be ccordinated, to maximize the benefits of the space-based discoveries, while in the case of Don Quijote we have also helped with the target selection."

4) Has the planning of these space based observations contributed to better understand the necessity and the possible results of ground-based observations with current and planned large telescopes and surveys?

"The studies of the discovery missions have shown the superiority of the discoveries from space, especially for some orbital types, like the Atens and the IEOs, and that substantial results can be achieved in reasonably short time. A space based IR observatory would have a great efficiency in enlarging, in a short time, the sample of NEOs for which physical information is available.
The in-situ missions would allow to check, with direct observations, the inferences made starting from the results of ground-based observations, allowing to understand the strengths and the weaknesses of the latter, and helping to plan the deflections of different types of objects."

Copyright 2003, Tumbing Stone


>From Tumbling Stone, 23 March 2003

by Andrea Carusi, President, The Spaceguard Foundation

On January 20-22 the Organization for the Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has organized the "Workshop on Near-Earth Objects: Risks, Policies and Actions". The Workshop has been held at ESRIN, the ESA facility located in Frascati (Italy). This initiative has been taken by the OECD Global Science Forum (GSF), a branch of OECD dealing with scientific topics of a global nature, based on a proposal of the delegation of United Kingdom as a follow on of the UK NEO Task Force Report.

The Workshop was not intended as a scientific meeting. Rather, its main purpose was to bring together people with very different backgrounds, such as representatives of the Civil Defense and Space Agencies, policy makers, opinion makers, and scientists, and let them interact for a few days on this topic that is receiving increasing attention in the scientific community, but that is still not considered as a real issue by most of the governments. The goal, as declared in the title of the Workshop, was to examine what is the level of risk that NEO impacts may represent for the human population as compared to other, more common natural hazards, and to discuss what type of actions the governmental organization should take to cope with it.

The conclusions of the Workshop are in the form of recommendations that will be presented to the OECD GSF plenary session next June. The document has not yet been finalized and therefore cannot be reported here; however, a few comments on its "spirit" can be made. A first important point is that the NEO threat is recognized as real, although of very low frequency. The consequence of this finding is that actions should be taken to try to better understand the nature of the problem, depending on the local characteristics of individual countries. As an example, some countries could be more sensitive than others to tsunamis of even moderate intensity, such as the ones that can be caused by the impact in the oceans of objects of 200-300 metres in size.

A second point that has been raised is that the scientific investigations on all phenomena related to impacts should receive more attention and, in the end, more funds. The link between scientific research and civil defense initiatives has been stressed, because the science findings are essential to characterize the risk and to indicate the most effective ways of planning mitigation measures.

A third point concerns international collaboration. It is clear that impacts are a potential hazard that involves, by its very nature, many countries; actions should therefore be taken to improve the international collaboration both in finding the objects and in analyzing possible countermeasures. As an example, it has been remarked that an observing facility located in the Southern Hemisphere would be of great value, not because discovery of at least some of the dangerous objects would otherwise be impossible, but because a Southern search programme would allow to shorten the time needed to complete the inventory.

This last remark has been already fruitful. Recently, several scientists working on NEOs have completed a Pilot Program at the ESO facility in La Silla (Chile). The purpose of this program was to test the performances of ESO instrumentation and the possibility to use it for a large European project. The program made use of the 2.2m Wide Field Imager as a discovery instrument, and of the New Technology Telescope for follow-up. The results have been very encouraging: in a run of two night at the 2.2m and one night at the NTT, two new NEOs have been discovered. The most relevant result has been that this run has shown that the ESO instruments may represent a very valuable addition to the current efforts, because they can go very deep (about the 22nd magnitude) while scanning a large portion of the sky. The use of a very powerful instrument for follow-up, such as the NTT, would further increase the efficiency of the system.

Based on these results, a meeting has been held in Rome on March 3-4, in order to discuss the possibility of setting up a large European programme involving ESO. The prospects are rather good because ESO has clearly stated its interest. The programme could include using the 2.2m for an extended time (about 10 nights per month) and the other instruments (NTT, VLT, VST) for follow-up, both astrometric and physical. The programme would involve all European countries interested in NEO research, and should be supported not only by ESO, but also from the individual governments and by the European Commission.

We are still at a very preliminary stage of definition of a full proposal. However, the most interesting aspects of this project are that it would be located in the south and would extend the discovery activity down to objects in the 200-500 metres range, thus acknowledging the invitations already made by several international institutions, like the Council of Europe, the United Nations, and now the OECD.

Copyright 2003, Tumbing Stone


>From Jiji Press, 26 March 2003

Tokyo, March 26 (Jiji Press)--Japan plans to launch an M-V rocket carrying a MUSES-C asteroid research spacecraft on May 9, a government space research institute said Wednesday.

The Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, a body under Japan's Science and Technology Ministry, said it has received approval for the launch from the Space Activities Commission. The launch of the No. 5 M-V rocket will be the first since the unsuccessful launch of the No. 4 M-V rocket in February 2000. The No. 5 M-V rocket was originally scheduled to be launched from the Kagoshima Space Center, southern Japan, in November or December last year, but the date was postponed for technical reasons.

The MUSES-C spacecraft will conduct scientific observations and collect samples from asteroids passing close to Earth.


>From Jacqueline Mitton <>


26 March 2003   Ref. PN 02/07 (NAM2)

Issued by: RAS Press Officers

Dr Jacqueline Mitton
Phone: +44 (0)1223-564914    Fax: +44 (0)1223-572892 (Except 6 - 11 April)
E-mail:  Mobile phone: 07770-386133

Peter Bond
Phone: +44 (0)1483-268672      Fax: +44 (0)1483-274047 (Except 7 - 11 April)
E-mail:    Mobile phone: 07711-213486

National Astronomy Meeting Press Room phones (8 -11 April only):
+353 (1) 677 7608                 +353 (1) 677 7683
FAX +353 (1) 677 7566


The UK/Ireland National Astronomy Meeting (NAM) 2003 in Dublin Castle begins at 9 a.m. on Tuesday 8th April and runs through to 4.00 p.m. on Friday the 11th of April. A linked Solar Physics meeting is running in parallel, commences on Monday 7th April when sessions will be in Trinity College. The organisers are expecting a record attendance, in excess of 500.

REGISTRATION   Media representatives are invited to attend free of charge. Registration is available in advance through the web site at (click on link at top, "Registration")  or at the registration desk on arrival.

PRESS ROOM   There will be a press room in Room in C110, on the ground floor of Dublin Castle Conference Centre. Access is from the reception area at the Conference Centre Entrance from the Great Courtyard. It will be staffed by Jacqueline Mitton and Peter Bond (see contact details above). The press room will be open from 8.45 a.m. to 5.45 p.m. Tuesday - Thursday and 8.45 a.m. - 1.00 p.m. Friday.

PRESS NOTICES AND ABSTRACTS During the week before the meeting we expect to distribute by e-mail about 20 press notices on topical and newsworthy presentations. They will also be available on the password-protected media pages of the meeting web site at

Media requiring access to that page should contact Jacqueline Mitton or Peter Bond for the password.

THE FULL CONTENT OF EACH PRESS NOTICES IS EMBARGOED UNTIL 00.01 A.M. ON THE DAY OF RELEASE. There will be releases on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Short scientific abstracts of the selected newsworthy presentations are already on the web page above through the password-protected link in red "Embargoed Press Notices". Full press notices will be posted here as they become available.

Our selected highlights include work on black holes and gamma-ray bursts, cosmology and remote galaxies, X-ray pulsars, possibly the coolest supergiant star, space weather, asteroids, and archeoastronomy in Ireland.

THE NAM   The National Astronomy Meeting (normally held annually) is one of the most important regular gatherings of astronomers in the UK. In 2003, it is being held for the first time in Ireland, at the invitation of the Astronomical Sciences Group of Ireland. Sponsored by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) and the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC), the NAM will be attended by more than 500 professional astronomers and doctoral students from the UK, Ireland and beyond.



>From Nick Sault <>

Hi Benny

The article " TOO FEW LUNAR METEORITES" presented a few conundrums, I must say.  Firstly, I can understand the claim that there's a 50% chance that debris ejected from a lunar impact will come to Earth, because the Earth represents such a huge gravitational sink at the lunar distance.  But the claim that it should be "10 times better odds than for an arrival from Mars", staggers me somewhat and someone might have to explain to me how the Earth, which is just a point in the sky seen from Mars, could attract such a large proportion of Mars ejecta. 

Secondly, perhaps the reason that we get no more ejecta from the moon, which is for the most part hundreds of times closer than Mars, is the frightening prospect that perhaps the much more massive Earth diverts debris away from the moon, thus making impacts on the moon far less frequent than on Mars. If this should be the case, then counting lunar craters is going to come up with a serious underestimation of the likely impacts on Earth. 

Nick Sault


>From Suff, 21 March 2003,2106,2346716a4560,00.html

UFOs are Saddam's secret - UFO watchers claim


President Bush decided to attack Iraq because he was scared Saddam Hussein would use technology from a crashed alien spaceship, UFO watchers claim.

But the dictator doesn't want "Dubya" getting his hands on the space-age technology, says a professed Kiwi UFO expert.

He and his fellow space-case managers say a UFO crashed in Iraq in 1998.

Top American secret agents have been worried since then that Iraqi president Saddam would break it down to find out how to build his own spaceship and weapons, they claim.

Wellington UFO believer Bre said President Bush wouldn't be told about the spacecraft.

"Normally the president of the USA doesn't have a security clearance high enough to be in the know about all the Black Operations projects.

"You have to have MK Ultra clearance, before you are given access to such things as reverse engineering alien technology," Bre said.

George Dubya's father George Bush senior - who was president during the last Gulf war in 1991 - was a former head of the CIA.

Apparently he told his son.

And somehow Bre - who doesn't have a last name - has found out about the UFO conspiracy.

"Bush senior was privy to info that he wouldn't normally have access to," Bre told Truth.

The Americans should be careful in case Saddam already had alien weapons technology, Bre said.

"I imagine Saddam would delight in knocking the USA's airforce out of his skies," he said.

He forwarded Truth an email from an American UFO watcher.

She claimed President Clinton almost attacked Iraq in 1998 after Saddam threw out United Nations weapons inspectors.

But Clinton decided against it at the last minute.

He was scared Saddam already had alien technology, she claimed.

Copyright 2003, Stuff

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