Our space environment poses many threats, both natural and human-made that can be a risk to life and property, and impact the infrastructure in orbit and on the ground. ESA is working on new projects and missions to tackle these, such as the Hera mission to a binary asteroid system, the L5 space weather mission to Lagrange point 5, or concepts for the monitoring and active removal of space debris.
When interviewed for EuroNews at the recent conference in Brussels to plan a new space mission programme for the EU's space agency, Johann-Dietrich Wörner, Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA) said: “Together with the Americans, with NASA we are looking for a project that should try to play billiard in space, hitting a small asteroid to see how we can deflect an asteroid which is running towards the Earth”.
This is part of the emerging field of Space Safety, as to be included in the proposals of ESA Director General Jan Wörner for the next Ministerial Council, ‘Space19+’, in November 2019. Such issues would cover the challenge of space debris, ensuring a timely warning of space weather impacts or detecting and deflecting asteroids.