Scientists to See If They Can Save Earth From Asteroid
Mission in 2022 will be a test run on preventing collision
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 1, 2015 1:52 PM CDT
This image shows a rendering of the DART impact on Didymoon.   (European Space Agency)
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(Newser) – Come 2022, scientists will attempt to save all of humanity from an asteroid. Calm down, it's just a trial run. The joint US-European AIDA—that's Asteroid Deflection and Assessment—mission intends to crash a probe into a 525-foot-wide asteroid known as Didymoon to see if the impact will change its orbital path. The egg-shaped asteroid is actually part of a binary system and orbits its larger partner, Didymos, every 12 hours, per Phys.org. NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) probe will crash into Didymoon at a speed of roughly 13,420mph, while ESA's Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) will study the effects so researchers can determine whether Didymoon's orbit was indeed altered, reports ITV News. As ESA mission manager Ian Carnelli explains, "We will gain insight into ... how the technique could be applied if a real threat were to occur."

"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," an ESA lead investigator says of the plan, revealed Wednesday at the European Planetary Science Congress in France. As such, before AIM retreats to a safe distance to watch the impact, it will first study Didymoon's mass, density, and internal structure. The mission is set to launch in October 2020 and will meet up with the binary system in May 2022. Per the ESA, Didymos will be "comparatively close" to Earth in 2022, at a distance of about 6.8 million miles; the Independent reports it came within 4.5 million miles of our planet in 2003. (In the meantime, here's how humanity might survive an asteroid strike.)