DR. SKY BLOG

NASA to test asteroid deflection device to protect Earth

Jul 7, 2017, 10:33 AM | Updated: 4:30 pm
Simulated image of the Didymos system, derived from photometric lightcurve and radar data. The prim...
Simulated image of the Didymos system, derived from photometric lightcurve and radar data. The primary body is about 800 meters in diameter and the moonlet is approximately 150 meters across. They are separated by just over a kilometer. The primary body rotates once every 2.26 hours while the tidally locked moonlet revolves about the primary once every 11.9 hours. Based on observations of the NEA population to date, scientists think that ~1/6th of NEAs are binaries. (Naidu et al., AIDA Workshop, 2016)
(Naidu et al., AIDA Workshop, 2016)

The simple truth is we are not prepared to deal with a sizable asteroid or cometary nucleus — think the one that hit Earth 65 million years ago — were to be on a collision path with Earth.

That could change because of NASA, which is planning to run its Double Asteroid Redirection Test in October 2022.

The goal of the DART test is to slam a small kinetic impactor the size of a home refrigerator moving at 3.7 miles per second into the surface of asteroid Didymos B. The impact — if successful — could alter the velocity of the asteroid and deflect it from nearby asteroid Didymos A.

The asteroids orbit around a common center of gravity, so this asteroid system will be a good test case on how to deflect objects.

This is the first of may types of technologies on the table designed to prevent an asteroid from striking the Earth.

Until recently, there have only been ideas on how to destroy or deflect these rocks that have their origins in the creation of the solar system.

The good news is that there are more than 1,800 near-Earth asteroids that we have orbital data on. As of now, there is no known asteroid that is expected to hit our planet.

The bad news is that there are millions of other objects that have yet to be discovered and could pose a real threat to Earth.

Here is an interview I conducted with Ruben Garcia, aka Mr. Meteorite, on the wonders of smaller asteroid debris that hits Earth.

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NASA to test asteroid deflection device to protect Earth