Research program to tackle asteroid and space debris manipulation

World-leading scientists will push the boundaries of studies on how to deflect asteroids and manipulate space debris, as the University of Strathclyde gets set to transform international space research.

Led by Strathclyde, the Stardust programme – the first research-based training network of its kind – boasts some of the world’s foremost experts in the field and aims to protect the planet and space assets from catastrophic impacts.

An opening training school, being held at the University from 18-22 November, is the first step for postgraduate researchers in the Stardust initiative that will train the next generation of scientists, engineers and policy-makers from a pool of more than 100 highly-qualified applicants.

Professor Massimiliano Vasile, of the University of Strathclyde’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, is leading Stardust. He said: “Stardust provides us with a fantastic opportunity to take forward the research capabilities we have and inspire the next generation of researchers in the field. It will push the boundaries of space research with innovative ideas and visionary concepts.

“Asteroids and space debris represent a significant hazard for space and terrestrial assets and it is becoming clear that the increasing population of space debris could lead to catastrophic consequences.

“But asteroids and space debris may also represent an opportunity if we had the technology to exploit them, for example debris recycling or asteroid mining. Stardust is bringing together experts from across the world to advance research and find solutions to these challenges.

“This week-long school is the opening event in the Stardust programme and the researchers who will be training are among the best students in the world. They will study a variety of topics and attend lectures delivered by leading figures in aerospace engineering, physics, computer science and applied mathematics, coming from across Europe, USA and Japan.”

During the week of activities, there will be input from the 14 different European institutions in Stardust, including Professor Bruce Conway, an expert on space trajectory optimisation from the University of Illinois; Prof Hiroshi Yamakawa, from Kyoto University, expert on manipulation of asteroids and space debris; Prof Seishiro Kibe, from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, world-expert of space debris removal, and Dr Pierre Bourdon, from the Office National d’Etudes et de Recherches Aerospatiales (ONERA), world leader of asteroid and debris deflection by laser.

The school will also run a series of free evening talks open to the general public. The first will be ‘The Search for Gravitational Waves on ground and in space’ – delivered by Professor Jim Hough, from University of Glasgow. With Professor Martin A. Hendry, also from the University of Glasgow, presenting ‘cosmological theories of the multiverse’.

Stardust is a 4.1m euro project funded by the European Commission under the FP7 People/Marie Curie Actions grant scheme. The network is led by Prof Vasile from the University of Strathclyde and gathers together researchers and leaders from 14 different institutions, including academia, industry, research think tanks and the European Space Agency.

The network will employ and train 11 post-graduate and 4 post-doctorate researchers over 4 years, including 2 PhD students (Research Assistants) and 1 post-doctorate Research Fellow at Strathclyde.

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