NASA, European Space Agency Prepping Asteroid Deflection Test for 2022

NASA, European Space Agency Prepping Asteroid Deflection Test for 2022

Asteroid

NASA and the ESA will crash a space probe into an asteroid in 2022.

When I was but a wee lad growing up in rural Quebec, I was kept awake most every night by two fears: nuclear destruction and an asteroid apocalypse. The first fear stemmed from my watching the nuke scene in Terminator 2 one too many times. The second meanwhile was pretty much just a situation of why the hell not? If I was going to be afraid of one apocalypse situation then why not have nightmares about another one? In the intervening years between now and then I've grown less scared of things like that. And now, if NASA and the European Space Agency have their way, no little boys anywhere will have to fear sky-born murder rocks ever again.

According to reports, the two space agencies have recently teamed to put together and test a plan aimed at discovering whether or not humanity actually could deflect an asteroid if push comes to cosmic shove. According to the plan, the ESA will first build and launch the spacecraft AIM. Once complete, AIM will be launched in the year 2020 to a nearby binary asteroid belt where it will monitor Didymos, an asteroid about 2,625 feed wide. AIM will also deploy a landing craft to "Didymoon," a smaller rock (560 feet wide) that currently orbits Didymos.

Two years later in 2022, NASA will complete and launch DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test), a special probe that will fly toward the same asteroid belt and slam into Didymoon at a speed of about 13,420 MPH. "AIM will be watching closely as DART hits Didymoon," said ESA mission leader, Ian Carnelli. "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."

In other words, the two organizations plan to smack Didymoon really hard and see what happens. The obvious goal of this is to figure out just how big of a smack we'd need to deliver if we were to one day scan the heavens and discover something dangerous heading our way. It might not be firing Bruce Willis into space, but it's a start.

Source: Space

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Whatever you do, don't let Hollywood direct this. Otherwise we're guaranteed to have Didymoon perform some bizarre slingshot and somehow end up headed straight at us.

Although, I suppose, if that does happen, we could just fire another rocket at it....

More seriously: Whoop! Science! Firing stuff at Asteroids to see what happens!

They should have stayed with the previous asteroid deflection plan: Using a giant shirt with drawings of women all over it to catch and bounce the asteroid back out and away from the earth.

I love seeing international cooperation that involves hitting something really hard that isn't full of humans for once, maybe space agencies can teach countries about the bigger picture.

The_Darkness:
Whatever you do, don't let Hollywood direct this. Otherwise we're guaranteed to have Didymoon perform some bizarre slingshot and somehow end up headed straight at us.

More likely Didymoon will go to it's friend Didykong and the world will be destroyed by a Banana several thousand miles across traveling at relativistic speeds.

Our doom will at least be tasty, assuming you like bananas.

StewShearer:
Sky-Born Murder Rock

Good band name!

And the odds of us actually detecting a killer asteroid with enough time to spare to actually divert it even if this plan works? Slim to none.

I was under the impression Sky-Born Murder Rocks were one of the reasons we still have those ICBM stockpiles. But killing a rock with his smaller brother is fun, too.

It seems the annual NASA/ESA pool tournament was getting a little stale. So they decided to up the stakes the only way astrophysicists know how :P

I know they are much smarter than me about all this stuff, but wouldn't most asteroids moving towards us probably not have a companion that will alter the results, even if only slightly? Maybe it's not enough to matter I guess..

What if we accidentally eliminate the only other intelligent life in this universe by way of hurling an asteroid at them, purely ignorant that they exist?
Just sayin'

I don't know about any of you guys, but I'm just glad to live in a universe where a celestial body is named "Didymoon".

BoogieManFL:
I know they are much smarter than me about all this stuff, but wouldn't most asteroids moving towards us probably not have a companion that will alter the results, even if only slightly? Maybe it's not enough to matter I guess..

I can think of at least one giant space rock we could throw at other, more dangerous space rocks... But then any hopes of setting up a lunar whaling operation will have to take a back seat to our Earth Defense Rock project. That being said, if implemented, I'd love for it to be affectionately nicknamed the "Freedom Boulder", as anything capable of stopping an extraterrestrial murder pebble can also be used to kill potential hostile space wetbacks.

I... may have had too much fun coming up with alternate names for simple things.

teamcharlie:
And the odds of us actually detecting a killer asteroid with enough time to spare to actually divert it even if this plan works? Slim to none.

Look at the bigger picture:
If we can blast them out of their way, we can direct them where ever we want.
Soon, we'll have a nice asteroid belt around earth, ready to be mined and exploited in shady conditions.
And then: Gundam!

Or Cowboy bebop, you choose.

Prepare to be even more paranoid, Stew. Growing up in rural Quebec, you probably lived no more than 700 km away from Sudbury, Lake Manicouagan, and Charlevoix, which are the 2nd, 7th and 12th largest impact craters ever found, respectively.

All I can think of is this: http://i.imgur.com/cbADzmO.png

teamcharlie:
And the odds of us actually detecting a killer asteroid with enough time to spare to actually divert it even if this plan works? Slim to none.

Nonsense. We see into other galaxies. All things viewed in space are relative in terms of velocity and perceptibility. This isn't Armageddon where nobody sees it until some amateur telescoper notices. If we can detect black holes by the actions around them, diamond planets, and water worlds...we can sure as hell pick up a giant bloody ROCK in our general vicinity.

FalloutJack:

teamcharlie:
And the odds of us actually detecting a killer asteroid with enough time to spare to actually divert it even if this plan works? Slim to none.

Nonsense. We see into other galaxies. All things viewed in space are relative in terms of velocity and perceptibility. This isn't Armageddon where nobody sees it until some amateur telescoper notices. If we can detect black holes by the actions around them, diamond planets, and water worlds...we can sure as hell pick up a giant bloody ROCK in our general vicinity.

It's a question of arc angle, not telescope power. Say there's an asteroid the size of Texas hurtling toward Earth. Average orbital speed of an asteroid around Earth is about 20 km per second (or approx. 72,000 km per hour). So if it's a week out, it's about 12,000,000 km away. That's about thirty times the distance from the Earth to the moon. The width of Texas is 1244 km. Now imagine trying to find that on a telescope. Hint: the arc angle is ~.00001 radians aka ~.006 degrees at that distance. For comparison, "At absolute best, humans can resolve two lines about 0.01 degrees apart: a 0.026mm gap, 15cm from your face." (source: http://www.sciencefocus.com/qa/how-small-can-naked-eye-see). In other words, you need a telescope to find this asteroid. But because you have to zoom in the telescope to even see the asteroid, let alone see it at any usable resolution in order to distinguish it from any other space garbage, that means that you can only look at a very very small portion of the sky at a time.

Then, with less than a week to go before literally Armageddon, you have to prep a rocket mission to fly to an asteroid 12 million kilometers away that is itself traveling 72,000 km per hour, and shove said asteroid the size (and mass) of Texas out of the way of Earth without shattering that asteroid into a bunch of pieces that could still wipe out all higher lifeforms on Earth. Not to worry though, it doesn't even have the be the size of Texas to kill us all! Asteroid 1997 XF11 is estimated to be between 1.3 km and 2.8 km in diameter, that asteroid will pass perilously close to Earth in 2028 at likely about 30,000 miles per hour, and if it hit us, it (a much smaller asteroid than the one I'm imagining) would strike with the force of a million megatons.

So, no. We're not remotely safe from asteroids even if this test works.

teamcharlie:
Snip

I was saying we'd see it even longer than a week's travel time away. Time and distance was never the issue. The REAL issue, which I've had discussion on, has always been the right rockets to deliver payload. Feasible, but difficult. I understand that you're showing your work here, but you were basing it on the wrong premise.

@teamcharlie:

I agree with FalloutJack. We have automated telescopes watching the skies that have frankly ridiculous resolutions. We also have computers hooked up to these telescopes - and spotting something moving against the background stars is also very easy to automate.

Also, anything the size of Texas would be reflecting a LOT of light compared to the background of space. It'd probably be visible to the naked eye if it was anywhere closer than the Asteroid Belt - so even amateur astronomers would notice it with plenty of time to give us warning.

There's a dismantling of the scientific inaccuracies of Armageddon here which discusses the visibility of dangerous objects in our solar system - search for "18 days away" on that page.

 

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