After the meeting of the ESA Council at Ministerial Level last weekend, ESA Director General Jan Woerner made the following statement:
There was one aspect which detracted from the otherwise positive mood: AIM (short for Asteroid Impact Mission) failed to get the financial support it needed. AIM had been intended as a learning exercise that would form part of a joint NASA-ESA activity to evaluate the technical possibilities of changing the flight path of a tiny asteroid moon. It was an example of ESA at its absolute best: daring, innovative and ambitious all at once.
Although, in the beginning, very promising subscriptions were given, the withdrawal of the biggest single amount at the very last minute proved devastating to an important mission with great potential for worldwide visibility.
Following on from Rosetta, AIM had the ability to inspire the public by investigating how to deal with an object hurtling towards the Earth.
The overall mission costs were estimated to be just about 2.5% of the overall subscriptions; the direct needs were only 1%. Ultimately – and this I very much regret – the difficult discussions among member states and a focus on direct applications and short-term return led inevitably to a situation in which I had no choice but to announce the proposal’s cancellation.
The door was slammed shut but as I am convinced of the necessity of such a project, I will try to find a way back in through a window again. It is simply too important.