With the objective of stimulating academic work on subjects relevant to Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) and attracting more researchers to work in the space field, ESA has linked the first International Academy of Astronautics Planetary Defence Conference in Granada to a competition called 'Encounter 2029: Research Students Investigating Apophis'.
During this contest, postgraduate students have been encouraged to submit abstracts on topics covering a variety of subjects that relate to small-body Earth encounters, such as:
- modelling of the small asteroid environment and related effects – plasma and dust environment, solar radiation, Yarkovsky effect
- geology and geophysics of small bodies
- dynamics and control related to Apophis-like rendezvous and interception scenarios
- innovative deflection strategies and mission architectures
The winners will receive a prize and financial support to cover their participation in the conference.
After many studies carried out during the last decade as part of ESA's General Studies Programme, and following approval at the November 2008 ESA Council at Ministerial Level, the Agency has now established a new Space Situational Awareness (SSA) programme that, among other topics such as space debris and space weather, will also address the monitoring, tracking and characterisation of NEOs. In particular this work will assess the potential threat coming from such an object hitting Earth. This will be done by the coordination of existing observation facilities and by setting up data centres.
In addition, long-term activities will be defined, in this way making a key contribution to the international effort to assess the NEO impact risk.