Next week, asteroid researchers and spacecraft engineers from all around the world will gather in Rome to discuss the latest in asteroid defense. The three-day International AIDA Workshop, which will run from Sept. 11th to 13th, will focus on the development of the joint NASA-ESA Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment (AIDA) mission.

The purpose of this two-spacecraft system is to deflect the orbit of one of the bodies that make up the binary asteroid Didymos, which orbits between Earth and Mars. While one spacecraft will collide with a binary Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA), the other will observe the impact and survey the crash site in order to gather as much data as possible about this method of asteroid defense.

The target for this joint mission is Didymos, a near-Earth binary asteroid system that consists of a larger asteroid and an orbiting “moonlet”. The main body of this system measures about 780 meters (2,560 ft) in diameter while its moonlet measures about 160 m (525 ft) in diameter. It was selected as part of a careful decision process that sought a deflection target that could provide a maximum scientific return.

Diagram depicting DART’s planned impact on Didymos’ “moonlet”. Credit: ESA

NASA’s contribution to AIDA is known as the Double Asteroid Impact Test (DART) spacecraft, which is currently under construction. The Italian-made miniature CubeSat known as the Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids (LICIA) will be accompanying DART and deploying simultaneously to record the moment of impact.

Then there’s the ESA’s Hera, which will perform a close-up survey of the asteroid after the DART spacecraft impacts on the surface. This will consist of taking me

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