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ESA and NASA Planning “Armageddon” Asteroid Test

by Paul Strauss

It’s a common doomsday scenario – a rogue asteroid finds itself on a collision course with Earth, posing the risk of a catastrophic impact with our big blue marble. One of the solutions prescribed by science fiction writers is that we could knock said asteroid off course, and protect our planet.

But is this really feasible? Scientists at the European Space Agency have proposed a project for the years 2020 through 2022 which would investigate just that. The Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) would send a spacecraft to a nearby binary asteroid system and first make its way to its moon to capture high-res visual, thermal and radar maps. The spacecraft would carry several smaller vehicles, one of which could land on an asteroid, another to test deep-space communications. Later, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft would arrive at the site with the express mission to crash into the asteroid moon, dubbed “Didymoon,” to see if it can knock it off course.

The remaining probes would then carefully monitor the asteroid to see if its orbit changes, and by how much. Assuming a successful mission, data collected could later be used to help protect Earth from errant asteroids. Be sure to watch the video above for a full rundown of the mission plans.

(Thanks, Christian!)

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