Statement on Asteroid Orbit Deflection Demonstrations
(agreed at the 6th SMPAG meeting, Feb 2016)
Given the degree of international interest in asteroid research and awareness of the impact hazard, advantage should be taken of opportunities to investigate asteroid deflection physics, techniques and effects as a part of science and technology demonstration missions. While general science and technology efforts are vital, the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG) has identified the need to gain sufficient confidence in the viability of any proposed technique to deflect an asteroid from an impact trajectory. Therefore the performance of the deflection technique to be utilized must have been actively demonstrated in a realistic planetary defence scenario to increase the current level of confidence.
The SMPAG encourages actual demonstration of the kinetic impactor technique with a space mission, as it appears at this point in time to be the most technologically mature method of asteroid deflection. SMPAG also supports the investigation of the gravity tractor technique for demonstration as a part of any space mission using ion or other low-thrust propulsion technology planned to visit an asteroid. SMPAG also encourages the investigation and technology maturation of other potential deflection and impact mitigation techniques to determine their viability, particularly in combination with other missions.