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Press release,

BERLIN, GERMANY (15 November 2019) – During a press event today at the Museum für Naturkunde (MfN) in Berlin, a major campaign was launched to support missions designed to increase our knowledge of asteroids and near Earth objects (NEOs), in particular, in particular ESA's Hera Mission. The campaign, “Support Hera” was initiated by the co-founders of Asteroid Day, the global movement to protect the world from dangerous Asteroids, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) which focuses on all bodies within our solar system including the Sun, planets, and small bodies, and the Observatoire de la Côte D’Azur, internationally recognized center for research in Earth Sciences and Astronomy. Live and Recorded link:

During the press conference, organisers released an open letter signed by more than 1200 scientists and concerned citizens supporting increased knowledge of Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and space missions necessary to protect Earth from dangerous NEO impacts. The letter is available here:

“More than 1200 prominent scientists and citizens from around the world have signed a letter in support of Hera because studying NEOs cannot be under appreciated and the Hera mission is core to gaining the knowledge we need to detect and ultimately deflect dangerous asteroids headed towards Earth,” said Grig Richters, Co-Founder, Asteroid Day.

NEOs are left over matter from the formation of planets and range in size from a few meters to tens of kilometres. As with Earth, NEOs orbit the Sun and sometimes come dangerously close to Earth’s trajectory. Hera will determine whether a kinetic impactor is able to deflect such a small body, when Earth is threatened.

"New NEOs are now being discovered at the rate of some 4 per day", said Dr. Patrick Michel, AIDA/Hera Principal Investigator. "We need a coordinated international strategy for near-Earth object impact mitigation!"

Within the larger AIDA international collaboration, Hera will provide new knowledge on the properties of NEOs and their response to an impact by characterizing for the first time the small moon of a binary asteroid and the outcome of an impact deflection test, as highlighted by Dr. Patrick Michel: “The Hera and DART missions, under the coordinated AIDA collaboration of scientists, will give us the unique possibility to test our capabilities to deflect an asteroid, combined with fascinating science!“

The European Hera mission is part of the international AIDA (Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment) collaboration. This collaboration is supported  by NASA and ESA whom will combine the data obtained from NASA’s DART mission and ESA’s Hera mission to produce the most accurate knowledge possible from the first demonstration of an asteroid deflection technology. We want to learn how we can interact with such bodies and how we might change their trajectories before an asteroid is identified to be on a collision course with Earth. As citizens of our Solar System, we need to expand our body of knowledge of the Universe in which we live and how we can protect our planet from hazards originating from space.

“It is now that we have the knowledge about the surface of comets and asteroids from space missions as Rosetta and Dawn - and based on this experience we are best prepared for a mission on asteroid deflection. “ said Dr. Holger Sierks, Principal Investigator Rosetta/OSIRIS, Planets and Comets Department, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research.

“Simulations of asteroid deflection by impact are only as good as the knowledge we put into them. With Hera and DART, we have the unique opportunity to test our simulations and feed them with new knowledge about the asteroid’s responds on impact”, echoed Dr. Kai Wünnemann, Head of Division Impact and Meteorite Research at MfN and Prof. for Impact and Planetary Phyiscs and the Freie Universität Berlin.

Hera will also demonstrate advanced new technologies for use in future planetary missions and also pave the way to new types of deep-space missions using CubeSats for riskier operations.

Gisela Pösges, a Geologist from Geopark Ries e. V. said: “For me who live in an Impact crater, the Ries Crater, the danger from space is very obvious. The Ries Event destroyed an area from more than 4.500 qkm.  That means if such an Impact Event would take place today at the same place the area which is located in a triangle made by the three big City in Southern Germany Nuremberg in NE direction, Stuttgart in western direction and Munich in SE direction (all three ctities are 100 km away from the Point of Impact) would be wiped out.”

There are several tens of millions of NEOs larger than 10 meters in size that would have an energy larger than a small nuclear weapon if they entered the Earth’s atmosphere, and we have identified just 21,443, as of 5th November, 2019. Unlike other natural disasters, asteroid impacts are the only one we know how to predict with early discovery and potentially prevent with deflection technology. As such, it is crucial to our knowledge and understanding of asteroids to determine whether a kinetic impactor is able to deflect the orbit of such a small body, in case Earth is threatened. This is what AIDA will help us assess.

The press conference was live-streamed in english, and a recording can be found here, with additional photos and video interviews in both German and English:

Media contact:

Press kit:

B-Roll and Pictures will be made available, here, one hour after the press conference.



Grig Richters (moderator), filmmaker and Asteroid Day co-founder

Dr. Patrick Michel, AIDA/Hera Principal Investigator, Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur, CNRS

Prof.  Kai Wünnemann, Head of Division Impact and Meteorite Research at MfN, Prof. for Impact and Planetary Phyiscs and the Freie Universität Berlin

Dr. Holger Sierks, Principal Investigator Rosetta/OSIRIS, Planets and Comets Department at Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research

Gisela Pösges, Geologist at Geopark Ries e. V.

Dr. Timo Stuffler, Director Business Development at OHB

About the Côte d’Azur Observatory

The Côte d’Azur Observatory (OCA) in Nice, France, is a public research centre for Astronomy and Earth sciences. OCA hosts 3 research laboratories, and among them the Lagrange Laboratory of CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research), which focuses on research in instrumentation, ground/space-based observations and theoretical/numerical modelling in the fields of planetology, fluid mechanics, plasma and solar physics, and cosmology.

About the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS)

The Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen, Germany, is one of 84 institutes of the Max Planck Society, Germany’s leading research association devoted to fundamental research. Scientific work at MPS is focused on all bodies within our solar system including the Sun, planets, and small bodies as well as on the interior of distant stars.

About Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

The Museum für Naturkunde - Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Science is an integrated research museum within the Leibniz Association. It is one of the most important research institutions worldwide in the areas of biological and geological evolution and biodiversity. It includes research partners in Berlin, Germany and approximately 60 other countries. Over 700,000 visitors per year show that the Museum has become an innovative communication centre that helps shape the scientific and social dialogue about the future of our earth – worldwide.

About Asteroid Day

Asteroid Day was co-founded in 2014, by Dr. Brian May, astrophysicist and lead guitarist for the rock band Queen; Danica Remy, B612 President; Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart; and filmmaker Grig Richters. Asteroid Day is held on 30 June each year to mark Earth’s largest asteroid impact in recorded history, the Siberia Tunguska event. In 2016, Asteroid Day was declared by the United Nations as a global day of education to raise awareness about asteroids opportunities and risks. Asteroid Day is a program of the Asteroid Foundation headquartered in Luxembourg. Global partners include: Association of Space Explorers, B612, OHB SE, SES, BCE, EC GROUP, and Luxembourg Space Agency.