|14 January 2016|

The University of Strathclyde’s Stardust Project explores solutions to the threats posed by asteroids and space debris.

A £4.1m project funded by the European Commission, it was the winner in the Space Achievement/Academic Study Research category of the 2015 Sir Arthur Clarke Awards, presented at the UK Space Conference.

Professor Massimilano Vasile, Stardust network co-ordinator, said: “Earth will be hit by more asteroids in the future. The question is not if, but when.

“In the 1990s, the European Space Agency’s space telescope searched for asteroids and estimated there are more than 1.5 million between Jupiter and Mars, with a size large enough to destroy a European country if they hit Earth. If these are the large ones, more than 1 km across, how many millions of smaller asteroids are out there?

“A smaller asteroid would not cause the devastation of the one which struck at the time of the dinosaurs, but even a small asteroid could have a profound effect on a city or town. This is why it is vital that we continue to identify and track near-Earth objects, and also that we create viable options to deflect an object which might threaten lives.

“This is also why Stardust is such an urgent project. We use multiple disciplines, from robotics, to applied mathematics, and from computational intelligence to astrodynamics, to find practical and effective solutions to the asteroid threat.”

The project will be featured in a major BBC programme tonight: BBC Two’s Stargazing Live due to be broadcast at 9pm.