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NASA asteroid warning: Space rocks to cause "serious damage to thousands of square miles" | Science | News


The two space agencies are preparing to discover if it is possible to eject a false asteroid from its deadly orbit. The world's first planetary defense operation hopes to study the effect of colliding with a small "Didymoon" spacecraft orbiting the asteroid Didymos.

The Joint Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA) mission consists of NASA's dual Asteroid Redirection Test (DAR) spacecraft, which will tap into the spacecraft and ESA's HERA mission that will continue to study the effects.

However, the mission is dependent on an agreement between politicians meeting in Seville later this month to determine which projects will be funded in the coming years.

Because of the uncertainty, 1,200 scientists, including astronomer Royal Lord Rees, have written to ministers warning of the danger of not funding the asteroid mission.

They wrote: “As citizens of our solar system, we must expand our knowledge of the universe in which we live and how we can protect our planet from dangers originating in space.

READ MORE: NASA presents a fantastic photo of the ISS passing Sun.

“Asteroids near the Earth will either strike the Earth's surface or explode in a low altitude fire, in both cases, causing serious damage to regions of thousands of square miles or more.

“Unlike other natural disasters, an asteroid impact with Earth is not just one we know how to predict, but one we can prevent, in a way that just needs testing.

“Today we are the first generation of people who have the necessary technology to try to change the orbit of an asteroid.

"We strongly urge governments to keep the upcoming Hera mission high on the agenda … providing new and important knowledge necessary to protect ourselves and future generations."

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Asteroids are the remnants of the emerging planets, ranging in size from a few meters to hundreds of miles across.

Like the Earth, they orbit the sun and sometimes come dangerously close to Earth and there is nothing that can be done to deflect an incoming threat.

Tens of millions of asteroids are larger than 30 ft, which means they potentially have the energy greater than a small nuclear weapon if they enter the Earth's atmosphere.

Researchers have so far identified only 21,443, less than 20 percent of the total.

The call for funding was made at a press conference in Berlin ahead of the ministerial meeting in Spain.

Dr. Patrick Michel, AIDA / HERA Principal Investigator, said: “New asteroids are now being detected at a rate of about four per day.

“We need a coordinated international strategy to reduce the impact of objects near the earth.

"The AIDA collaboration gives us the unique opportunity to test our ability to divert an asteroid, in combination with fascinating science."

The NASA DART mission is likely to be launched next year and arrives in the binary asteroid system 2022, where it will immediately crash into the 525-foot-wide Didymos B that circles the half-mile-wide Didymos A

Discovered the 1966 system, orbiting the sun every 771 days and classified as an asteroid "potentially dangerous" to our planet.

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