Home / Engineering on the Edge / Help Save the World from Killer Asteroids

Help Save the World from Killer Asteroids

An international team of scientists plans to test a working asteroid deflection system in hopes of averting a devastating collision with a killer near-Earth asteroid—and they’re asking for your help.

The European Space Agency and Johns Hopkins University are collaborating on a trial run to test out the concept behind the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA) mission.

The two-part mission will use separate spacecraft to intercept a binary asteroid. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) craft collides with the smaller of the two asteroids, while the Asteroid Impact Monitor (AIM) surveys the asteroids before and after impact. If the collision changes the relative spin of the asteroid (thus potentially altering its direction and trajectory), the AIM will detect that and relay the information back to Earth.

On Feb. 1, the ESA will release a Call for Experiment Ideas, asking for input on ground or space-based experiments, tests and payload ideas from different domains “including hypervelocity impact and collisional physics, planetary defense, planetary science, human exploration and spacecraft operations related to the goals of the AIDA concept,” according to the group’s website. You can learn more here and here.

Source: European Space Agency

About Brian Albright

Brian Albright is a contributing editor to Desktop Engineering. Send e-mail about this article to DE-Editors@deskeng.com.

One comment

  1. I realize the motivation to verify that a concept such as this does work, but I would be deeply concerned about the unintended consequences that may be initiated by disrupting the course of some small asteroid that has been missing the earth for a long time. Really, consider that the deflected asteroid would continue to traverse on it’s new path “for all eternity”, and that some place on this unanticipated path, traveling at some undetermined velocity, different from before, it may intersect earth’s path. Perhaps just injecting a random change of both velocity and trajectory does not sound like such a wise choice after considering those facts.

    A much smarter move would be a bomb to convert the asteroid into very small particles that would be widely dispersed by the contact explosion. A meteor shower of sand-grain sized meteorites would not be nearly so disastrous. Of course, it would require a rather big explosion.