Asteroid Programs

Asteroid Missions - Overview

1957 views December 26, 2015 asteroidday 15

If you want to learn more about each Mission then please go to the sidebar on your left.


The Asteroid Impact Mission is a small ESA mission of opportunity to explore and demonstrate technologies for future missions while performing scientific investigations on a binary asteroid and addressing planetary defense.

ASTEROID IMPACT & DEFLECTION ASSESSMENTThe Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment (AIDA) mission is a joint international collaboration of ESA, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), Observatoire de la Côte d´Azur (OCA), NASA, and JHU/APL.


B612 is an organisation that works towards protection of Earth from asteroid impacts a reality, and to inform decision-making on planetary defense issues. B612 provides a non-governmental voice on the risks, options, and implications of asteroid data.


Following on from the initial NEOShield project, the NEOShield-2 project was launched in March 2015 in response to the PROTEC-2-2014 call of the European Commission to “access technologies and characterisation for Near-Earth Objects”. Due to last around 2 and a half years, the project focusses on further developing the technology and science required to prevent a NEO impact.

NASA Near-Earth Object Search Program

There are a number of NASA supported Near-Earth Object (NEO) discovery teams currently in operation. The early efforts to discover NEOs relied upon the comparison of photographic films of the same region of the sky taken several minutes apart. The vast majority of the objects recorded upon these films were stars and galaxies and their images were located in the same relative position on these films. Early discovery techniques included blink comparators and stereomicroscopes to examine the photographic images. Because a moving NEO would be in a slightly different position on each photograph and the background starts and galaxies were not, the NEOs appeared to jump back and forth when each image, in turn, was quickly viewed through a so-called blink comparator. Alternately, the NEO’s image appeared to “rise” above the background stars when two different and slightly offset images were viewed with a special stereo viewing microscope.

The Catalina Sky Survey

The CSS Schmidt telescope is located on Mt. Bigelow in the Catalina Mountains just north of Tucson, Arizona, (longitude -110deg. 43.9min. West and latitude +32deg 25min North, 2510 meters above sea level). The site is owned and operated by Steward Observatory of the University of Arizona.


The Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System — is an innovative design for a wide-field imaging facility developed at the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy.


The LINEAR (Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research) program leads in the discovery of the NEOs larger than one kilometer so this survey is largely responsible for successfully meeting the so-called Spaceguard goal of finding 90% of the NEOs with a diameter of one kilometer or larger.


SPACEWATCH is the name of a group at the University of Arizona‘s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory founded by Prof. Tom Gehrels and Dr. Robert S. McMillan in 1980.  Today, Spacewatch is led by Dr. Robert S. McMillan.


NEOWISE: Funded by NASA’s Planetary Science Division, NEOWISE harvests measurements of asteroids and comets from images collected by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft. NEOWISE provides a rich archive for searching for solar system objects.

Spaceguard Centre

The Spaceguard Centre is the National Near Earth Objects Information Centre (NNEOIC). With Jonathan R. Tate as its Director, it is the only organisation in the UK dedicated to addressing the hazard of Near Earth Objects.

Minor Planet Center

The Minor Planet Center (MPC) operates at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), under the auspices of Division F (formerly Division III and, before that, Commission 20) of the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The Minor Planet Center derives its operating budget from a five-year NASA grant.


The Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous – Shoemaker (NEAR Shoemaker), named in honor of planetary scientist Gene Shoemaker, was designed to study the near Earth asteroid 433 Eros, one of the largest of the near Earth asteroids, from close orbit over a period of one year. The mission was the first-ever to orbit an asteroid and the first to touch down on the surface of an asteroid. The primary scientific objectives of NEAR were to return data on the bulk properties, composition, mineralogy, morphology, internal mass distribution and magnetic field of Eros. Secondary objectives include studies of regolith properties, interactions with the solar wind, possible current activity as indicated by dust or gas, and the asteroid spin state.


Hayabusa2 to clarify the origin and evolution of the solar system as well as life matter.Asteroid Explorer “Hayabusa2” is a successor of “Hayabusa” (MUSES-C), which revealed several new technologies and returned to Earth in June 2010. While establishing a new navigation method using ion engines, Hayabusa brought back samples from the asteroid “Itokawa” to help elucidate the origin of the solar system. Hayabusa2 will target a C-type asteroid “Ryugu” to study the origin and evolution of the solar system as well as materials for life by leveraging the experience acquired from the Hayabusa mission.


OSIRIS-REx seeks answers to the questions that are central to the human experience: Where did we come from? What is our destiny? As the leftover debris from the solar system formation process that began over four billion years ago, asteroids can teach us a lot about the history of the Sun and planets.

ESA  NEO  Coordination  Centre

The  ESA  NEO  Coordination  Centre  (NEOCC)  is  the operative centre of the SSA-NEO  Segment.   It  is  located  at  ESA’s establishment ESRIN (Frascati, Italy).  Its aim is to coordinate and contribute to the observation of small Solar System bodies in order to evaluate and monitor the NEO hazard.