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European space agency considers smashing spacecraft into asteroid

By Samantha Kimmey
Friday, January 18, 2013 21:35 EDT
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European space officials are considering sending a spacecraft to smash into a small asteroid — one of the pair of orbiting rocks, named Didymos, that will sail closely past the Earth in 2022 — to see if they can throw them off course, according to Ars Technica.

The idea behind the plan is to see if it is possible to substantially change the couse of a dangerous asteroid, were one to ever head directly toward the planet. Officials would measure to what degree the asteroids changed course.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is also soliciting public comments on the mission — called the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment, or AIDA — and ideas for other experiments that could be performed.

The mission’s proposal to send the spacecraft at a speed of 6.25 kilometers per second would actually vaporize the materials it came into contact with due to the speed, allowing them “to study in miniature the conditions that might have existed in the earlier stages of our solar system,” according to Ars Technica.

[Image via AFP]

 
 
 
 
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