A European-led mission to test a dramatic method of deflecting asteroids hurtling towards Earth is scheduled to launch in 2019, Space.com reported.
The project, called AIDA (short for Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment mission), plans to smash a spacecraft traveling at 14,000 miles per hour into the smaller of the two Didymos asteroids in 2022. (These asteroids have no chance of hitting Earth, assured scientists at the 44th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference earlier this week.)
The scientists want to see if the collision will push the smaller Didymos asteroid off course, Space.com reported.
AIDA will send two spacecraft to the Didymos asteroids. Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., is building the probe that will do the crashing and the European Space Agency is building a spacecraft that will observe the impact and send data back to Earth.
The scientists hope to learn what the Didymos asteroids are made of and where asteroid debris floats after an impact, Space.com said. And, oh, yeah – whether this crazy asteroid deflection idea even works.
Apparently there’s no time to lose. Earlier this week at a Congressional hearing on asteroid threats, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden admitted that his agency and the US military currently don’t have the ability to deflect “city killer”-sized space rocks, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
“What would we do if you detected even a small one … headed toward New York City in three weeks? What would we do?” US Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla, asked Bolden, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
“If it’s coming in three weeks, pray,” Bolden replied.
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