The plot of the 1998 film Armageddon involves a team of expert oil drillers being sent into space, to land on an asteroid on a trajectory to earth, in order to blow it up.
If that precis weren’t sufficient, here’s the Bruce Willis-laden trailer:
Nasa, because the world is reality TV these days, has announced their plan for a similar scenario.
The system is known as Dart (Double Asteroid Redirection Test). The plan would be to send a spacecraft onto a binary asteroid system (a grouping of two) called Didymos.
Didymos A is about a half mile wide, B is about 150 metres wide.
B is projected to fly close to earth in October 2022, and again in 2024, and impact could create significant global effects.
Dart, if all went to plan, would fly to Didymos and launch itself at B, using a targeting system – the craft would hit the asteroid at around 3.7 miles a second.
It’s hoped the impact would change the speed of the asteroid, altering the trajectory away from earth.
Andy Cheng, who is co-leading the Dart investigation at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, said:
DART is a critical step in demonstrating we can protect our planet from a future asteroid impact
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.
So, that’s comforting.