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 would study how an asteroid’s trajectory could be altered using a so-called kinetic impactor. They also released this series of images, which show us how missions 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 kilometer-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 asteroid redirection technology for defense purposes may pay off in unexpected ways. If, for instance, we can use kinetic impactors to nudge 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 Didymoon, the smaller asteroid in a binary pair
AIM using infrared imaging to monitor moment of impact
Top image: AIM watching an kinetic impactor. Image Credits: ESA - ScienceOffice.org