NASA launching spacecrafts to land on dangerous ‘impact’ asteroids

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NASA’s Planetary Defence Officer has unveiled a plan for the space agency to land on asteroids potentially on course to hit Earth.

A major asteroid strike, like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs, could cause mass devastation on Earth and pose a risk to human life.

Several theories have emerged on how to do this, but in 2021 NASA will launch its first DART mission, which aims to slightly alter the the solar system to divert dangerous asteroids or comets.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test, also known as DART, will launch on July 2021 and aim to reach double asteroid Didymos by October.

DART will fly through space and then crash an impactor spacecraft into the asteroid in a bid to help NASA understand kinetic energy for planetary defence purposes.

And there are plans for even more "impact" asteroids in the future.

Speaking to Space.com about the mission, NASA’s Planetary Defence Officer and program executive of the Planetary Defence Coordination Office, Lindley Johnson, said he hopes the mission will "confirm" whether or not kinetic impact will be a "viable option" for planetary defence.

Mr Johnson hopes the technique can be used for "smaller-sized asteroids, which are the most frequent impact hazard."

He told Space.com: "It will confirm for us what the viability of the kinetic impactor technique is for diverting an asteroid's orbit and determine that it remains a viable option, at least for smaller-sized asteroids, which are the most frequent impact hazard."

Mr Johnson hopes NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be able to work through different scenarios, "like how much time before impact do you have? Or what’s the size of the object?"

  • Asteroid the size of Space Needle tower heading towards Earth on Christmas Day

He added: "There will definitely be more coming, and possibly next year. We do introduce different scenarios, like how much time before impact do you have? Or what's the size of the object?

"I think in a future exercise, our main objective is to have a broader community of the NEO Impact Threat Emergency Protocols Working Group take part, representation from a number of other agencies that have not been involved in previous exercises."

  • Asteroids

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