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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Asteroid Impact Mission Picks A Target

A rendering of Didymos with its moon. (European Space Agency)

A rendering of Didymos with its moon. (European Space Agency)

NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have announced a plan to intercept an asteroid in 2022 and throw it off course.

The mission would slam a spacecraft into a “binary” asteroid called Didymos, which is actually two space rocks orbiting each other – one about 2,600 feet across, the other about 490 feet.

A rendering of the AIDA mission concept. (European Space Agency)

A rendering of the AIDA mission concept. (European Space Agency)

Didymos is not on a course to hit Earth, but it’s coming close enough (within 6.8 million miles) to conduct an experiment to learn more about how humanity could deflect a potentially dangerous asteroid.

The plan comes after a meteorite exploded Feb. 15 above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, injuring 1,200 people and damaging thousands of buildings. On the same day, an asteroid called “2012 DA14″ came historically close to planet Earth.

Plans for the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment mission, or AIDA as it’s called, have been in the works long before our recent close encounters with large celestial bodies.

It’s just one of the strategies scientists are developing to help Earth avoid a catastrophic collision with an asteroid.

Johns Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory is providing AIDA’s collider, and the observing spacecraft will come from ESA.


  • Kelly Beatty, senior contributing editor for Sky & Telescope magazine.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jasper.johns.7 Jasper Johns

    This all sounds very much like a novel I just read called “THE MYOSHI EFFECT” which is about what happens when a giant asteroid hurtles toward earth, and how they try to destroy it. “THE MYOSHI EFFECT”  is a black humor but very factual. Weird how fiction imitates life.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bkort Barry Kort

    I took up this question up as part of a workshop exercise in creative writing in scientific subjects.

  • Z89

    Oops… it was just suppose to be a “test”… but we accidentally nudged a harmless asteroid in the wrong direction.  It wasn’t suppose to hit Earth… but now it will.   Sorry.

  • http://twitter.com/JohnnyFroggg J Frog

    Estimate of danger?  About on par with the danger of the sequester.

  • Ted

    I like the idea of just letting it hit the earth and we all take our chances.
    If a meteorite hit the earth,  say in a populated area then that region could be rebuilt. Think of a Marshall Plan.
    Remember how the U.S. destroyed Germany and Japan during World War Two and then we rebuilt them.
    Jobs for many. And if there is a loss of life, think of that as part of Nature’s plan of “culling the masses”.
    A lot of winners here. 
    This is what capitalism is all about. Destroy and rebuild.

    • Katta

      What you said is the American way. Its all a crap shoot down here on Mother Earth. In the short term not much can be done and in the long term we are all dead anyways.

      In Nature there are no rewards or punishments, only consequences. 

  • imo

    Lets just get high and let it come. You can’t stop an apocalypse.

    • Lewis

      Obamageddon on its way.

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