UCF Professor to Host State Department Discussion on Planetary Defense

UCF Professor to Host State Department Discussion on Planetary Defense

In June, at least five asteroids – some as big as a Boeing 747 – will buzz close to Earth, coming within 431,000 miles of the planet.

Asteroids are constantly moving through our solar system. Although none of them presently pose a serious threat to Earth, they might in the future. As a civilization, we must defend the Earth against these threats, because an asteroid impact has happened before, like the one that may have contributed to the extinction of the dinosaurs, and will happen again if we don’t nothing.

That’s why NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in California monitors them, often discovering new objects. Until its collapse in 2020, the Arecibo Observatory was also one of the sentinel guardians capable of quickly characterizing new objects.

UCF Professor of Physics Humberto Campins
UCF Pegasus Physics Professor Humberto Campins

“There is a lot of interest in asteroids, as hazards and also as resources for space mining,” says Humberto Campins, professor of Pegasus physics at the University of Central Florida, an international expert in asteroids. “Space missions tell a lot about asteroids and how to deflect them in case one threatens our planet. This is not just an American problem, it is a global problem, which must be solved to ensure the survival of our species.

That’s one of the reasons he hosts a roundtable for the US State Department focused on international cooperation for planetary defense. The online program is set for 10:00 a.m. June 28. As of 2021, Campins has served at the State Department as a Jefferson Science Fellow, and although he is now in Spain conducting research on one of their telescopes, he continues to support efforts like this. this.

The roundtable is one of many events taking place around the world between June 28 and 30 as part of Asteroid Day, which takes place on June 30.

Campins was part of the first team to discover water on an asteroid and is part of NASA’s OSIRIS REx mission, which brings back a sample from asteroid Bennu. The sample may contain clues to the formation of our solar system. The sample was collected after a unique touch-and-take-off maneuver. What scientists learn about the asteroid’s behavior will help fill the information gap that exists about asteroids and could help find ways to deflect them, Campins said. Although we haven’t had any close calls in a while, the asteroids keep coming.

Just five days before the State Department event, an asteroid measuring about 110 feet will come within 4.5 million miles of Earth, according to JPL. It’s quite close in terms of spatial distance.

NASA is exploring options on how best to redirect a threatening asteroid and has funded the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission as an initial experiment. The mission aims to demonstrate the ability to redirect an asteroid using the kinetic energy of a projectile. The mission, led by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), is the first of its kind. The spacecraft was launched in November 2021 and is expected to hit its target – the asteroid Dimorphos – on September 26, 2022.

DART systems engineer Elena Adams is one of the panelists joining Campins on June 28. Prior to APL, Adams worked on various NASA and European Space Agency missions to Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Europa, and the Sun. She has also conducted studies for NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The other panelists are:

  • Thomas Jones, a veteran NASA astronaut, scientist, author and pilot. He has been on four space shuttle missions, and in 2001 Jones led three spacewalks to install the centerpiece of the International Space Station.
  • Lindley Johnson, NASA’s very first planetary defense officer. He is also the senior program director for the office. It is responsible for warning and responding to any potential asteroids or comets that may impact Earth.
  • Ettore Perozzi, Italian planetary scientist and member of the Italian LICIACube mission. This spacecraft will detach from DART before impact and record impact images with the Dimorphous asteroid.

Although World Asteroid Day does not take place until June 30, the Department of State wishes to make freely available to the international community a program to share the strategy and methods of international cooperation in planetary defense. . Panelists are at the forefront of scientific, technological and diplomatic efforts to ensure the global community is informed and prepared for the risks of asteroid impacts.

“Science diplomacy and global engagement on technology is a top priority for the Biden administration,” says Loren Hurst, virtual program producer for the U.S. Department of State. “Diplomatic efforts related to planetary defense have set a valuable precedent for other critical global issues such as climate change.”

To watch the discussion, tune in at 10 a.m. June 28 at https://interactive.state.gov/asteroid-day-2022/ Viewers will be able to ask questions via a chat option.

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