European Space Agency Is Going to Try to Deflect an Asteroid

NASA and the ESA will try to deflect an asteroid by impacting it with a spacecraft. (Screenshot/YouTube)
NASA and the ESA will try to deflect an asteroid by impacting it with a spacecraft. (Screenshot/YouTube)

Armageddon has hit Earth before, and that’s a good reason to get ready, right?

The European Space Agency (ESA) is thinking of new ideas to help develop a US-European asteroid deflection mission. The target will be the binary near-Earth asteroid named Didymos, and the date is set for October 2022.

The idea of the mission is to send two spacecraft to a near-Earth asteroid. One will smash into it while the other one will observe any effects.

Asteroid impact and deflection assessment study:

The mission is called the Asteroid Impact and Deflection mission (AIDA), and is part of the ESA’s Space Situational Awareness (SSA) program. This program has also been seeking ideas for ways to deflect asteroids.

“AIDA offers a promising platform for the test and demonstration of different deflection methods,” said Detlef Koschny, manager of SSA’s near-Earth object effort. “It is therefore important to ask the users early on what they’d like to do with a mission like this.”

The purpose of the mission is to learn the physics of a high-speed collision between spacecraft and asteroids.

The spacecraft consist of a Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) craft, which will be designed by the U.S. Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

It will only carry an imager for targeting, as its only job is to act as a projectile to deflect an asteroid. The second craft will be the Asteroid Impact Monitor (AIM), which will be built by ESA. It will survey the asteroid and record what happens before and after the collision.

Asteroids in our solar system:

“The advantage is that the spacecraft are simple and independent,” says Andy Cheng of Johns Hopkins, leader of the U.S. side of AIDA. “They can both complete their primary investigation without the other one.”

DART is estimated to weigh over 660 pounds and will be moving at a velocity of 13,980 mph. The asteroid will be 492 feet in diameter.

With that kind of speed, the collision would be an example of a “hypervelocity impact.” DART will hit so hard, the materials at the impact site will turn into plasma.

I can’t wait to see the results. What do you think? Will this small spacecraft be able to deflect an asteroid?

 

 

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