Letter of Support for the RAMSES Mission to the Asteroid Apophis

Letter of Support for the RAMSES Mission to the Asteroid Apophis

Letter of Support for the RAMSES Mission to the Asteroid Apophis https://asteroidday.org/wp-content/themes/fildisi/images/empty/thumbnail.jpg 150 150 Asteroid Day Asteroid Day https://asteroidday.org/wp-content/themes/fildisi/images/empty/thumbnail.jpg

The upcoming close encounter with the asteroid Apophis on April 13, 2029, presents an exceptional opportunity for planetary defense, asteroid science and public engagement. 

Apophis, measuring 370 meters in diameter, will approach Earth at a mere 31,600 km, a once-in-a-millennium event. A space mission to Apophis will allow humankind to observe the asteroid’s response to Earth’s tidal forces, offering crucial insights into small celestial bodies and planetary defense. By investing in the RAMSES mission, we take proactive steps to enhance our planetary defense capabilities. 

During its closest approach, Apophis will be visible to over 2 billion people in Western Europe and North Africa, making it an outstanding educational and public engagement opportunity. The success of previous small-body missions, such as Rosetta (ESA) and DART (NASA), underscores the public’s interest in such endeavors. These general public and educational aspects motivated a working group to propose to the UN the year 2029 as the international year of planetary defense. Calculations indicate with certainty that Apophis will not collide with Earth in 2029. This event must therefore be communicated as an extraordinary scientific and educational event for the benefit of the future of Humanity. However future collisions cannot be ruled out yet and the general public have a unique opportunity to directly engage and participate in the international planetary defense effort.

By studying Apophis, also by means of small cubesats landers, we can advance our understanding of asteroids’ physical properties and evolution, enhancing our ability to respond to potential threats. Furthermore, a European mission visiting Apophis before and during its closest passage to the Earth will offer great synergy with the NASA OSIRIS-APEX mission that will visit the asteroid a few days after this passage, promoting international cooperation as an important component of planetary defense. Importantly, the mission carries no risk of causing an Earth impact of Apophis at any later stage, as assessed by a special action team of NASA’s Small Body Assessment Group.

Time is of the essence in planning this mission, especially for in situ measurements. Therefore, it should be a top priority. The knowledge gained from this passage in 2029 will greatly benefit humanity and will prepare us for the unlikely case of a future asteroid impact.

In conclusion, launching a European mission to Apophis would demonstrate a swift response to this unique event, benefiting both planetary defense and scientific exploration. This mission aligns with recommendations from the US Decadal Survey 2022 and the the UN-endorsed Space Mission Planning Advisory Group, providing inspiration for the public and leaving a lasting legacy as a new page in the history of space exploration.

First signatories:
Patrick Michel (France)
Alan Fitzsimmons (UK)
Simon Green (UK)
Monica Lazzarin (Italy)
Stephan Ulamec (Germany)
Paul Abell (US)
Seiji Sugita (Japan)

Sign the letter of support for the RAMSES mission