In 2021, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) was sent on a 10-month course across the solar system to slam into the small asteroid Dimorphos. The hope is for DART to change the course of the rock, testing out potential planetary defense mechanisms.
The China National Space Administration has recently announced the next spacecraft that will set off from Earth to impact an asteroid will blast off in 2025. The kinetic asteroid defense mission is part of a larger planetary defense initiative. The agency’s official report released at the start of this year includes “plans for building a near-earth object defense system, and [to] increase the capacity of near-Earth object monitoring, cataloging, early warning, and response over the 2021-2025 period.”
Which asteroid is being targeted?
The mission is aimed at an unidentified potentially hazardous asteroid, which means a space rock that is associated with a higher probability of eventual impact with Earth. However, there’s no need to start preparing your doomsday basement just yet, space agencies have found no imminent threats on this front and the scientific world is just taking extra precautions to test out methods for avoiding future disasters.
The growing planetary defense field
If an asteroid comes tumbling towards our world we are currently as defenseless as the dinosaurs. Space agencies around the world want to change this to secure the future livelihood of the human race.
China is especially eager on this front, holding its first Planetary Defense Conference in October 2021. Here, sessions, papers, and presentations were discussed on this topic to bring the world’s experts together to collaborate and spur creative ideas.
Alongside NASA’s DART and China’s asteroid defense plan, the European Space Agency is planning a mission later this decade called Hera. This will revisit Dimorphos to see how DART altered the asteroid’s orbit and review the effectiveness of the collision technique.