Dinosaurs are said to have been wiped out by a massive asteroid that hit the Earth millions of years ago. This scenario also happened in modern times threatening human survival, although this transpired in the films, "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon." But the threat is real - that is why NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are joining forces for a mission that will test a capability to deflect the course of an asteroid. It is set to begin in 2020 as announced at the European Planetary Science Congress Wednesday.
The mission, called Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment (AIDA), aims "to test our ability to perform a spacecraft impact on a potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroid and to measure and characterise the deflection caused by the impact," according to a statement reported in Wired.
Ultimately, AIDA will attempt to change the course of the space target nicknamed "Didymoon." It is the satellite that orbits the asteroid Didymos. NASA and ESA plans to dislodge it from its path by slamming an unmanned spacecraft into the moon's surface. AIDA will send two spacecrafts, the first is the probe that will crash into Didymoon while the other will observe the impact, according to an Express report.
While the AIDA mission is merely a dry run - a preparatory exercise to find out whether an asteroid's path can be altered - it is also practical. This is because the AIDA target has a relatively high 1 in 2,700 chance of hitting the Earth by 2175, Express noted.
"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," Patrick Michel, lead of the ESA's Asteroid Impact Mission, said in a press statement.
For more on asteroids and how we can protect the Earth from another mass extinction, click here to read HNGN's exclusive interview with astrophysicist John L. Remo.