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NASA, ESA Plan To Shoot An Asteroid In 2022

Planetary Defense Test

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) have joined forces to shoot an asteroid with a spacecraft in what the space agencies are calling the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART).

The Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment (AIDA) mission, which the DART test is a part of, is a joint international collaboration between NASA, ESA, DLR, OCA, and JHU/APL.

AIDA’s primary goals are to smash a spacecraft into a potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroid and to measure and characterize the deflection caused by the impact, according to the ESA.

In the first half of the join AIDA mission, the Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) which is scheduled to launch in October of 2020, the European Space Agency will will target the binary asteroid system of Didymos, which is composed of an 800-meter wide main body orbited by a smaller asteroid informally referred to as “Didymoon.”

The smaller asteroid, Didymoon, is what the joint operation will target for redirection.

The agencies expect to arrive at Didymos in the year 2022.

DART will be traveling at a speed of 6 kilometers per second, which Discovery News noted in a report to be nearly 14,000 miles per hour, when it smashes into Didymoon.

The aforementioned Discovery News report quoted ESA’s Ian Carnelli, AIM mission manager, as having said that the results of the test “will allow laboratory impact models to be calibrated on a large-scale basis” in order “to fully understand how an asteroid would react to this kind of energy.”

AIM will be watching closely as DART hits Didymoon […] In the aftermath, it will perform detailed before-and-after comparisons on the structure of the body itself, as well as its orbit, to characterize DART’s kinetic impact and its consequences. […] The results will allow laboratory impact models to be calibrated on a large-scale basis, to fully understand how an asteroid would react to this kind of energy. This will shed light on the role the ejecta plume will play – a fundamental part in the energy transfer and under scientific debate for over two decades.

The test marks the first time anyone’s attempted to deliberately smash a vehicle into a celestial body with the sole intent of analyzing the reaction.

What do you think will happen when DART reaches its intended target?

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