NASA plans to test new asteroid defense technique

NASA has designed a strategy to deflect asteroids from crashing into Earth, and is planning to test this on an approaching asteroid system.


NSFW    DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — The folks at NASA are worried about a giant asteroid bringing about humanity’s end, and have unveiled plans for what to do about it.

A NASA press release reports that asteroids crash into Earth regularly, but they’re often small enough to burn up in the atmosphere. However, bigger rocks could cause significant damage if they were to hit Earth.

To this end, the agency has designed the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART. It’s target will be the binary asteroid system Didymos, which consists of a smaller rock, Didymos B, orbiting its much larger companion, Didymos A.

NASA’s plan is to launch a refrigerator-sized spacecraft at the smaller Didymos B when the asteroids approach Earth in October 2022.

The spacecraft will be travelling at 3.7 miles per second when it hits the asteroid, about nine times faster than a bullet. The collision is meant to eventually shift the rock’s orbit by changing its speed, a tactic known as the kinetic impactor technique.

Scientists on Earth will then study the impact and effect of the test on Didymos B, to determine if the strategy is a feasible way to prevent large asteroids from crashing into the planet.
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