In the 1998 blockbuster film “Armageddon“, NASA scientists have to figure out how to redirect a Texas-sized asteroid after discovering that it is less than a month away from a catastrophic collision with Earth.
The plot is not that farfetched. Luckily for us, however, real-life scientists have decided that it’s probably a good idea to prepare for the possibility of an incoming asteroid well ahead of time.
Not long ago, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) put the final touches on a joint mission that will use two small spacecrafts to knock an asteroid called Didymoon off of its course. The Independent reports:
That asteroid doesn’t pose any threat to us — and is far too small to do so — but the mission will be important test for whether our plans would work if we do eventually come at risk of civilisation being wiped out by a space rock.
After gathering some preliminary data, a NASA probe fittingly named the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) will launch itself at Didymoon in an attempt to push the asteroid off course.
Meanwhile, the ESA’s Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) probe will be circling the rock, gathering data to see what effect, if any, the DART’s impact has on the asteroid’s trajectory. The AIM probe will also drop a small lander on Didymoon to analyze its interior.
“To protect Earth from potentially hazardous impacts, we need to understand asteroids much better – what they are made of, their structure, origins and how they respond to collisions,”
said Dr. Patrick Michel, lead investigator for the ESA’s part of the joint mission.
The two spacecrafts are scheduled to launch in October 2020, with an estimated arrival at Didymoon in May of 2022.
Check out the brief video below to learn more about the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA) study and the Didymoon mission:
Check out the infographic below to see