JUL 10, 2017 8:10 AM PDT

NASA's Asteroid Redirect Concept is Moving Into Production & Testing

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Asteroids pose a real threat to the Earth and all the life that inhabits it. Smaller asteroids aren’t usually a problem, and break up in our atmosphere before posing a threat, but larger ones might be too big for our atmosphere to handle.

While we’ve been lucky to dodge most large asteroids to date, there’s always a chance that one is lurking out there somewhere that we just haven’t spotted yet, and the clock is ticking.

Related: Size matters in asteroid collisions

NASA is working hard to bring the concept of an asteroid-defense mission into the light. The idea is to develop a kinetic impact system that will tackle inbound asteroids while they’re headed towards Earth to deflect them away from Earth and into a new path.

An artist's concept of the AIDA DART probe taking aim at an asteroid. Image Credit: Johns Hopkins APL

While it sounds like something straight out of science fiction, this is real stuff. NASA has already put the idea on paper, called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), and is now working with Johns Hopkins APL to bring the concept to life in its first-ever testing phase.

This would work exactly how it sounds like; working as a dart, the refrigerator-sized probe will be shot at an asteroid in an attempt to use the kinetic energy to change its course away from the Earth.

"DART is a critical step in demonstrating we can protect our planet from a future asteroid impact," said Andy Cheng, who is co-leading the DART investigation at APL along with Andy Rivkin.

"Since we don't know that much about their internal structure or composition, we need to perform this experiment on a real asteroid. With DART, we can show how to protect Earth from an asteroid strike with a kinetic impactor by knocking the hazardous object into a different flight path that would not threaten the planet."

Related: Could an asteroid knock the Moon out of orbit?

There’s no guarantee that it would even work, since we really don’t know that much about asteroid composition or if a refrigerator-sized impact is large enough to make a difference in an asteroid’s trajectory. Nevertheless, we won’t know until we try, so that’s the next step.

So what will be the test target? A good question.

The next close counter of an asteroid is expected by 2024, when a 530-foot wide asteroid dubbed Didymos B swings around our neighborhood.

If we can develop this asteroid deflection concept before then, we will have an opportunity to test it out. Didymos B is not expected to hit us, but we can still test our technology on it and study its effectiveness at changing the asteroid’s course.

For now, it’s a waiting game until the first concept is devised and the asteroid comes closer. Fortunately, this provides a ton of buffer for getting the system right before testing just years from now.

Source: AIDA DART (Johns Hopkins University)

About the Author
Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JAN 12, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
New Study Concludes Black Holes are "Fuzzballs"
JAN 12, 2022
New Study Concludes Black Holes are "Fuzzballs"
To non-physicists, the terms “fuzzball” and “wormhole” seem like made-up words. Maybe some peopl ...
APR 03, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Saturn - The Ringed Planet
APR 03, 2022
Saturn - The Ringed Planet
Saturn, the sixth planet from the Sun – The Ringed Planet, as curious, young sky watchers might often ask, “ ...
APR 06, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Hubble Space Telescope Spots Farthest Star Ever Seen
APR 06, 2022
Hubble Space Telescope Spots Farthest Star Ever Seen
Since its launch and deployment by the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has made ove ...
APR 28, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
Weighing an Invisible Object in Space
APR 28, 2022
Weighing an Invisible Object in Space
Our Universe is full of exotic objects and phenomena, and we have built telescopes and satellites to try and attain a de ...
MAY 06, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Two Largest Marsquakes Recorded to Date FTW!
MAY 06, 2022
Two Largest Marsquakes Recorded to Date FTW!
On November 26, 2018, NASA’s InSight Mars Lander touched down on the Red Planet with the purpose of studying the i ...
MAY 20, 2022
Technology
Virtual reality & holograms will improve astronaut mental health during long-term space travel
MAY 20, 2022
Virtual reality & holograms will improve astronaut mental health during long-term space travel
Humans will be back on the Moon (Luna) within the next few years, and then on to Mars within the decade afterwards. We a ...
Loading Comments...