Cosmic Crash 2022: Can Space Probe Deflect Dangerous Asteroid?

By Philip Ross on March 25, 2013 4:49 PM EDT

asteroid
Pictured is Comet PANSTARRS C/2011 L4, a comet discovered in June 2011. In 2022, scientists will intentionally crash a space probe into a nearby asteroid to see if they can alter the course of the rock. (Photo: Reuters)

The cosmic crash of 2022 is a plan to smash a space probe into a nearby asteroid. The collision will help scientists to determine if we have the capabilities to divert dangerous asteroids that could be hurtling towards Earth.

Yahoo News reports that in 2022, scientists in Europe and the U.S. will intentionally slam a space probe into a neighboring asteroid to see if they can deflect its trajectory as well as find out what its surface composition is. Scientists made the announcement last Tuesday, March 19, at the 44th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Woodlands, Texas, at which they detailed the strategy behind the cosmic crash of 2022.

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The cosmic crash of 2022, called the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment mission, or AIDA, will involve the launching of two spacecraft, one American and one from the European Space Agency, or ESA. The American spacecraft, known as DART, or Double Asteroid Redirection Test, will smash into the asteroid at 14,000 mph, creating a giant crater and hopefully sending the asteroid slightly off course, according to Yahoo News.

The European space craft AIM, which stands for Asteroid Impact Monitor, will accompany DART to the asteroid, but will keep a safe distance from the rock, relaying information back to ESA. Scientists will launch the spacecraft in 2019, as it will take up to three years for them to reach the asteroid. The mission is expected to cost a total of about 266 million euros, or $344 million U.S.D.

The target asteroid is called Didymos, a benign asteroid that is actually a binary asteroid made up of one smaller and one larger rock, projected to peacefully pass Earth in 2022. At that time, Didymos will be about 6.8 million miles from Earth, which is why AIDA scientists have timed their mission for then, the Huffington Post reports.

The main asteroid of Didymos measures 2,625 feet across, or half a mile. A smaller asteroid, about 490 feet in diameter, orbits the larger.

For some time now, scientists have posited a number of solutions for diverting asteroids on a collision course with Earth. One method, according to Space.com, would be to intercept the asteroid with a robotic probe. The probe could then "tug" the asteroid just enough to divert the asteroid to a safer orbit.

Another solution would be to simply blow the asteroid up, although some scientists have raised fears that this would create a deadly rain of rocky material that could be equally as destructive to human life.

A third option, and by far the most science fiction of them, is the "mirror bees" method of diversion.

From Space.com:

The "mirror bee" concept ... would launch a swarm of small, mirror-bearing spacecraft to a dangerous asteroid. These mini-probes would aim reflected sunlight at one spot on the space rock, heating it up so much that rock is vaporized, creating propulsive jets.

While a viable option for deflecting dangerous asteroids is still in the works, AIDA will help scientists determine the most effective way to avoid an Armageddon-like situation.

Read more from iScience Times:

Voyager 1 Leaves Solar System: Where Is It Going?

Asteroid Threat LIVE Webcast: Watch House of Rep. Committee Discuss How To Deal With Asteroid Threat

Two New Species Of Native Psyllid Discovered In Australia

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