Cosmic Crash 2022: Asteroids vs. Space Probes

Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment mission

Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment mission

(Source: – Cosmic Crash 2022 is the term being used to describe scientist’s plan to intentionally smash a spacecraft into a massive asteroid in 2022 in hopes that they can take a look inside the mysterious space rock.

European scientists are leading the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment mission, or AIDA, which is set to launch in 2019. Two spacecraft — one American and one European — will partake on a three-year journey to the asteroid Didymos and its much smaller sister asteroid. Didymos is not set to collide with Earth, which makes it the perfect target for this kind of mission.

Scientists involved in the mission gave a detailed presentation on Tuesday (March 19) at the 44th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

Didymos is actually composed of two asteroids; The main asteroid is enormous, measuring 2,625 feet (800 meters) across. It is orbited by a smaller asteroid, which is  around 490 feet (150 m). The smaller asteroid orbits Didymos once every 12 hours. In 2022, the Didymos asteroids will be roughly 7 million miles (11 million km) away from the Earth.

To put some perspective on what an asteroid looks like from this distance, check out this radar imaged video of asteroid 4179 Toutatis. Toutatis was about 4.3 million miles (7 million kilometers) from Earth, or about 18 times farther away than the moon is:

The Johns Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory has been tasked with building DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test), which is one of the two spacecraft making the AIDA mission. The DART probe will be aimed to crash directly into the smaller Didymos asteroid while travelling at roughly 14,000 mph (22,530 km/h), creating a crater during an impact that is hoped to knock the space rock off course.

The second AIDA spacecraft, which has been dubbed the Asteroid Impact Monitor (or AIM), will observe the impact from a safe distance. The probe’s data will be used  to understand exactly what the impact did to the asteroid.

AIDA researchers are not sure of the exact composition of the Didymos asteroids. They could just be a loose clump of rocks travelling through the solar system, or could be a dense mass composed of undiscovered materials  Researchers hope that this mission helps them prepare for NASA’s project to send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025. In aggregate, the two space craft will cost roughly $340 million to produce.

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