It’s been a while since we had a blockbuster movie to remind us about the threat of an asteroid wiping us off the face of the Earth, but we won’t always have Bruce Willis to defend us. Luckily, we might not need him.
NASA is teaming up with the European Space Agency (ESA) to test out a system that could potentially deflect an asteroid from, you know, rendering us all extinct. The test is scheduled for 2022, and both NASA and the ESA are working up separate (but connected) Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA) missions to test a system that could potentially stop or divert a killer asteroid. NASA funding is slim these days, but we’d argue this is one idea worth bankrolling.
The ESA is working on an Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) spacecraft, which will travel to a binary asteroid system with a 2,625-foot-wide asteroid, which is orbited by a smaller object nicknamed “Didymoon.” The ESA craft will launch in 2020 to observe the asteroid, while NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) project will basically fly a craft into "Didymoon" at 13,420 mph in 2022, in an effort to see if the impact could potentially knock it off track.
The point, obviously, is to see what kind of effect the collision has on the asteroid and whether something like that might be enough to derail a bigger one from destroying our planet. The ESA craft will monitor the changes and compare before-and-after stats. We won’t point out the obvious irony that the American part of this project is to basically blow something up. 'Merica.