Over the past few decades, our knowledge of how to handle the threat posed by Near-Earth Objects has increased enormously. Astronomers surveying the sky find over 150 new NEOs per month. We understand the gross characteristics of that population; how many there are, what they are made of, their overall structure and how their orbits change. Now the final stage of threat assessment is under way. In three years time, humanity will test whether it can move a small asteroid for the first time. The NASA DART and ESA Hera missions are the first planetary experiment to significantly change the orbit of a celestial body. This talk will describe the background to the missions, the preparations happening this year, and what we hope to accomplish in 2022–2026.
Prof Alan Fitzsimmons is an astronomer in the QUB Astrophysics Research Centre. His primary research interests are in performing observations of minor bodies in our solar system, comets and asteroids. These studies are generally based on observations performed on the UK supported telescopes in the Canary Islands (ING) and Chile ( ESO).