ESA’s Planetary Defence Office actively participates at PDC 2019 in the Washington area

10 May 2019

ESA’s Planetary Defence Office (PDO) has participated with several presentations at the 6th IAA Planetary Defense Conference held in College Park, near Washington, between 29 April and 3 May.

The first PDO presentation at the conference was provided by ESA’s Planetary Defence Officer, Rüdiger Jehn, giving an overview of the Planetary Defence activities at ESA. He spoke of the three main PDO pillars at ESA: a) the observations pillar, with the Flyeye telescope as our future workhorse, b) the information provision pillar, with the NEOCC system as its core, and c) the mitigation pillar, with the Hera mission as the most prominent activity. You can see the actual presentation in the following link.

Secondly, the responsible of the NEO Coordination Centre Information System, Juan L. Cano, provided a talk about the recent evolutions in the NEOCC System. The most important additions to it have been the incorporation of the Orbit Determination System and the Impact Monitoring System, both migrated from NEODyS.

Later, NEOCC’s astronomer, Marco Micheli, presented a summary of the observational activities carried out at the NEOCC. Among the multiple collaborations of our team, he spoke of the routine use of the Optical Ground Station (OGS) telescope in Tenerife and the fruitful collaboration with ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), located in Chile, to perform follow-up of interesting NEAs.

Lastly, PDO’s Segment Co-manager, Detlef Koschny, provided a talk on Tuesday about the possibility to launch a cubesat mission to asteroid Apophis based on the M-ARGO concept. Apophis will have a very close approach to Earth in April 2029 and this will represent a fantastic opportunity to fly a mission to this NEA.

ESA’s representatives also participated very actively in the discussions associated to the simulated impact scenario and proposed a number of solutions that were discussed and agreed by the different working groups.

Participation on social media was very significant, especially on Twitter through ESA Operations account, and through two Facebook Live discussions, one done by Rüdiger Jehn and another one participated by Kelly Fast (NASA), Romana Kofler (UNOOSA) and Juan L. Cano (ESA).

In summary, the presence of ESA at the PDC this year has been of remarkable importance. The meeting has also allowed increasing the level of communication within the planetary defence community and fostering related initiatives as the one associated to the Hera mission. Statements of support were agreed and released for the Hera mission, the NEOCam mission and the Apophis 2029 opportunity.