NASA will test new defense system against asteroids

Its operators have their sights set on Didymos, a small asteroid that will approach Earth at around that date.

Jason Spencer | Jul 04, 2017

   

Deadly asteroids have struck Earth in the past, and NASA announced Friday that it is testing a new defense system that would deploy if an asteroid appears likely to crash into our planet again. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), a joint collaboration between NASA and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Baltimore, will attempt to launch a human-built structure that will strike an asteroid hard enough to shift its orbital path away from Earth and out of harm's way.
The project will make a test run in 2022. Its operators have their sights set on Didymos, a small asteroid that will approach Earth at around that date.
"DART would be NASA's first mission to demonstrate what's known as the kinetic impactor technique -- striking the asteroid to shift its orbit -- to defend against a potential future asteroid impact," said Lindley Johnson, NASA's planetary defense officer in Washington, in the press release. "This approval step advances the project toward an historic test with a non-threatening small asteroid."
Small rocky debris flies toward Earth all the time, although the vast majority of it is small enough to burn up in the atmosphere before it reaches the surface. Objects measuring 1,000 feet or more very rarely make it to Earth but can be immensely destructive if they doone such strike killed the dinosaurs.
NASA is tracking several large asteroids whose paths take them close enough to Earth that they might potentially risk colliding with our planet. One of these is a 1,452-feet-wide asteroid called 2013 TV135, which NASA calculates will fly within one-million miles of Earth in 2032.
The chances of this asteroid striking Earth are very slim, according to NASA. But in theory, a space-based defense system could offer us some protection if it comes too close.

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