European governments back asteroid exploration, exploitation
European space agencies have banded together to try and prevent any catastrophic impact events with €4 million funding for the exploration and exploitation of asteroids.
Stardust Reloaded – which is backed by the European, German and French space agencies, as well as other backers – is also set to research sustainability in space over four years.
The project will be headed by University of Strathclyde Professor Massimiliano Vasile and awarded the funding this week through the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Initial Training Networks (ITN) action of the European Union H2020 programme.
Professor Vasile said the programme would build off the original Stardust project from 2013 – which pioneered new techniques for asteroid and space debris monitoring.
“Stardust Reloaded will take a leap further, to understand the evolution of the space environment around Earth and how the ever-increasing traffic in space can be safely managed to prevent inevitable collisions and allow a sustainable use of space. A necessity for the future that is increasingly reliant on space-based products,” he said.
The new project will focus on researching the shape, gravity, composition and dynamics of asteroids and comets in view of possible actions to prevent a catastrophic impact with the Earth. The team is also set to investigate how mineral resources on asteroids could be exploited to enhance solar system exploration.
“There are so many people launching satellites now – particularly smaller and smaller ones – that the risk of collision, and with it the risk of setting off a cascade, is greatly increasing,” Professor Vasile said.
“With this project we aim to understand how the growth in satellites orbiting Earth affects the evolution of the space environment and how we can best manage that.”
Along with the governmental backing, Stardust Reloaded is supported by 17 other partners with the aim to help fund early-stage career researchers. “These funding opportunities are extremely competitive with a success rate of around just six or seven percent,” Professor Vasile said.
“So it is incredibly satisfying to have been so successful with our applications. It is a reflection of the quality of the projects and the prestige of the partners involved.”