The new mission will attempt a potentially world-saving maneuver by redirecting an asteroid’s trajectory.
The idea of preventing an apocalyptic asteroid impact by redirecting the object while it is still out in space has been the subject of science fiction movies and TV shows for years, but now thanks to a new international mission we could soon be seeing this concept being put in to action in real-life.
Known as the ‘Asteroid Deflection & Assessment’ (Aida) mission, the ambitious project will involve two spacecraft – one to smash in to the target asteroid and the other to record what happens.
While the egg-shaped space rock being deflected is only going to be 160m across, the mission does represent a stepping stone towards a solution that could one day save the entire human race.
The mission will launch in 2020 with both spacecraft arriving at their target two years later.
“To protect Earth from potentially hazardous impacts, we need to understand asteroids much better – what they are made of, their structure, origins and how they respond to collisions,” said Dr Patrick Michel who is heading up the European half of the mission.
“Aida will be the first mission to study an asteroid binary system, as well as the first to test whether we can deflect an asteroid through an impact with a spacecraft.”