Scientists to attack asteroid with spacecraft in preparation for one coming to Earth

Scientists to attack asteroid with spacecraft in preparation for one coming to Earth
A mock-up of the AIM spacecraft watching the DART spacecraft impacting the Didymoon asteroid (Picture: PA)

Scientists are going to launch an attack on a random asteroid in preparation for when one actually comes hurtling towards Earth.

The joint US-European Aida (Asteroid Deflection and Assessment) mission will crash a probe into the smaller of a pair of binary asteroids to see if the object’s path can be altered.

Although the egg-shaped target, known as ‘Didymoon’, is only 160 metres (525ft) wide, the test will show if in principle a much larger asteroid threatening to wipe out human civilisation can be deflected the same way.

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Undated handout image issued by the ESA/Science Office of the AIDA space mission. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday September 30, 2015. An ambitious joint US-European mission, called AIDA, is being planned to divert the orbit of a binary asteroidís small moon, as well as to give us new insights into the structure of asteroids. A pair of spacecraft, the ESA-led Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) and NASA-led Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), will rendezvous with the Didymos asteroid and its small natural satellite, known informally as ëDidymooní. Following a period of study of both asteroids and detailed mapping of Didymoon by AIM, DART will impact with Didymoon and AIM will assess the missionís effectiveness in diverting the moonís orbit around Didymos. See PA story SCIENCE Asteroid. Photo credit should read: ESA/Science Office/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
The AIDA space mission (Picture: PA)

Two spacecraft, one to smack into the rock and the other to monitor the effect of the impact, will be launched in October 2020, scientists were told at the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) in Nantes, France.

They are due to rendezvous with Didymoon and its 750-metre wide partner Didymos in May 2022.

Dr Patrick Michel, lead investigator for the European Space Agency part of the mission, said: ‘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.’

Didymos made its closest recent approach to Earth in 2003, a distance of 7.18 million kilometres (4.46 million miles).

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1 October 2015 | 9:08 pm – Source:


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