NASA and ESA team up for historic planetary defense test
Two space agencies plan missions to deflect an asteroid.
- NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are working together on missions to a binary asteroid system.
- The DART and Hera missions will attempt to deflect and study the asteroid Didymoon.
- A planetary defense system is important in preventing large-scale catastrophes.
It's not just a Hollywood exaggeration that an impact from an asteroid crashing into Earth would be massively catastrophic. Depending on the size of the asteroid, the effects could range from millions dead to an outright end of all life. Cities destroyed. Climate altered forever. Remember the dinosaurs?
To prevent such eventualities, space agencies around the world are working out planetary defense approaches. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have teamed up on a historic first-ever test of an Earth defense systems with missions aimed at knocking an asteroid off course.
The Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) project takes particular aim at an asteroid duo consisting of a 780-meter-long asteroid called "Didymos" and its smaller orbiting rock, dubbed "Didymoon." It's about the size of the Pyramid of Giza (160m across).
The plan of NASA's DART mission is to launch a probe in 2020-2021 which will get to Didymoon by October 2022. It will then crash into it while traveling at about 4 miles per second, moving it off previous course.
This NASA animation shows how the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) would target the smaller (left) Didymoon.
ESA's Hera mission of 2026 will land a cube satellite on Diddymoon after the impact to study what happened and whether the orbit of the asteroid around the bigger rock changed. The Hera probe, which will be launched in 2023, will also gather information on the mass and surface properties of the asteroid, as well as examine the crater left by DART. The CubeSat will likely land near the asteroid's poles.
"This will give us a good estimate of the impact's momentum transfer, and hence its efficiency as a deflection technique," expands Michael Küppers, the Hera project scientist. "These are fundamental parameters to enable the validation of numerical impact models necessary to design future deflection missions. We will better understand whether this technique can be used even for larger asteroids, giving us certainty we could protect our home planet if needed."
The giant rocks do not currently present a danger to Earth and were chosen because they will be seven million miles away from our planet even at their closest point. Additionally, Didymoon, which will be the smallest asteroid ever visited, is useful to study because its size makes it a bigger risk. Such rocks are harder to track. If it was to crash into Earth, the ensuing disaster would be horrific on a regional scale.
The missions will also help us gain a better understanding of binary asteroid systems, which make up about 15% of detected asteroids. They will also test technology that may prove useful for the burgeoning field of asteroid mining.
Asteroids and comets visited by spacecraft from Earth
- Hera adds objectives to planetary defense test mission ... ›
- Europe-wide team bringing ESA's asteroid mission nearer to life ... ›
- Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission | NASA ›
Former president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen discusses whether our society should always defend free speech rights, even for groups who would oppose such rights.
- Former ACLU president Nadine Strossen understands that protecting free speech rights isn't always a straightforward proposition.
- In this video, Strossen describes the reasoning behind why the ACLU defended the free speech rights of neo-Nazis in Skokie, Illinois, 1977.
- The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
Going back to the moon will give us fresh insights about the creation of our solar system.
- July 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landing — Apollo 11.
- Today, we have a strong scientific case for returning to the moon: the original rock samples that we took from the moon revolutionized our view of how Earth and the solar system formed. We could now glean even more insights with fresh, nonchemically-altered samples.
- NASA plans to send humans to a crater in the South Pole of the moon because it's safer there, and would allow for better communications with people back on Earth.
Pugs and bulldogs are incredibly trendy, but experts have massive animal welfare concerns about these genetically manipulated breeds.
- Pugs, Frenchies, boxers, shih-tzus and other flat-faced dog breeds have been trending for at least the last decade.
- Higher visibility (usually in a celebrity's handbag), an increase in city living (smaller dogs for smaller homes), and possibly even the fine acting of Frank the Pug in 1997's Men in Black may be the cause.
- These small, specialty pure breeds are seen as the pinnacle of cuteness – they have friendly personalities, endearing odd looks, and are perfect for Stranger Things video montages.
Jokesters and serious Area 51 raiders would be met with military force.
- Facebook joke event to "raid Area 51" has already gained 1,000,000 "going" attendees.
- The U.S. Air Force has issued an official warning to potential "raiders."
- If anyone actually tries to storm an American military base, the use of deadly force is authorized.