In celebration of World Asteroid Day this week, scientists came out of the woodwork to explain to all the different ways we can prevent an asteroid from causing an Armageddon-level apocalypse.
The European Space Agency used the occasion to promote its proposed Asteroid Impact Mission, which might deflect an asteroid using a so-called kinetic impactor—basically, a second projectile that could knock a big asteroid off its Earth-destroying trajectory. They also released this series of images, which show us how a mission designed to stop a space rock from slamming into our planet and annihilating all life on Earth—while clearly heroic—might also be quite beautiful.
While the chance of a kilometre-scale asteroid slamming into the Earth and eviscerating our biosphere is quite low, even a relatively small space rock could cause serious damage. What’s more, developing this sort of asteroid redirection technology for defence purposes may pay off in unexpected ways. If, for instance, we can use kinetic impactors to send a platinum-rich asteroid our way, well, that’d pay for the cost of the mission a thousand times over.
AIM phoning home
AIM networking for a kinetic impact
AIM with lander
AIM scanning a secondary impactor
AIM using infrared imaging to monitor moment of impact
Top image: AIM watching an kinetic impactor. Image Credits: ESA - ScienceOffice.org