In January 2004, following the presentation of the preliminary studies for 6 space missions for NEO exploration, ESA established an international panel, called NEOMAP (Near-Earth Object Mission Advisory Panel), consisting of six European scientists active in studies of Near-Earth asteroids, with the task of advising ESA on cost-effective options for participation in a space mission to contribute to our understanding of the terrestrial impact hazard and the physical nature of asteroids.
The six NEOMAP members are:
- Dr. A. W. Harris, German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Planetary Research, Berlin, D (Chair)
- Dr. W. Benz, Physikaliches Institut, Universität Bern, CH
- Dr. A. Fitzsimmons, Astrophysics & Planetary Science Division, The Queen's University Belfast, UK
- Dr. S. F. Green, Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute, The Open University, UK
- Dr. P. Michel, Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur/CNRS, F
- Dr. G. B. Valsecchi, INAF-IASF, Roma, I
On the 9th of July 2004, at ESRIN (Frascati, Italy) the NEOMAP presented the final report of its study to the scientific and industrial community in a public event, where representatives of other national space agencies were also invited.
The NEOMAP was in particular charged with:
identifying the advantages of, and defining a solid rationale for, the utilisation of space missions for the assessment of the impact hazard
identifying which of those advantages associated with the utilisation of space systems can best complement ground-based observations and data
revising the scientific rationale for the six missions studied in the light of current knowledge and international initiatives
- producing a set of prioritised recommendations for observatory and rendezvous missions in an international context
NEOMAP final recommendations
The NEOMAP, which had the task of advising ESA on cost-effective options for participation in a space mission to contribute to our understanding of the terrestrial impact hazard and the physical nature of asteroids, placed its highest priority on the 3 rendezvous missions, and in particular on the Don Quijote mission concept.
Alan Harris, German Aerospace Centre (DLR), Berlin, and Chairman of NEOMAP, explained that “if you think about the chain of events between detecting a hazardous object and doing something about it, there is one area in which we have no experience at all and that is in directly interacting with an asteroid, trying to alter its orbit”.
From the NEOMAP Report:
"Of the three observatory missions reviewed, the Panel considers the EUNEOS (and Earthguard-1) NEO survey concept to be most compatible with the criteria and priorities established in this report. EUNEOS appears to be a feasible, efficient and largely self-reliant mission with the single aim of discovering potentially hazardous NEOs and establishing their orbits. However, it was concluded that at the present time a space-based NEO discovery mission, within the scope of those considered here, is not the highest priority given the combined efforts of the various ground-based surveys likely to be productive over the coming decade. A reasonable approach may be to re-consider a space-based NEO observatory mission at a later stage, once the residual hazard from NEOs not accessible to the ground-based surveys has become better defined.
Of the three rendezvous missions reviewed, the Panel considers the Don Quijote concept to be most compatible with the criteria and priorities established in this report. Don Quijote has the potential to teach us a great deal, not only about the internal structure of a NEO, but also about how to mechanically interact with it. Don Quijote is thus the only mission that could provide a vital missing link in the chain from threat identification to threat mitigation. Considering possible participation from countries outside Europe, the Panel felt that the Don Quijote concept is compatible with current interest and developments elsewhere and may readily attract the attention of potential partners.
The results of the NEOMAP studies have been published on July 2004 in the report "Space Mission Priorities for Near Earth Object Risk Assessment and Reduction".
Last update: 14 May 2012