China is developing a system to track asteroids that could be hurtling toward Earth.
One key part of the plan: should an asteroid be heading straight for Earth, the system would take it out, according to Bloomberg News.
“To test the system, China intends to send a spacecraft toward an asteroid in 2025 or 2026 to study it and then change its course,” the news agency reported, citing Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the China National Space Administration.
“China’s aspirations for its space program have ramped up tensions with the U.S. The two sides have sparred over SpaceX satellites that Beijing said came dangerously close to its space station, prompting the government of the Asian nation to criticize SpaceX in a memo to a United Nations committee that oversees operations in space. Earlier this month the Pentagon said China and Russia continue to deploy weapons that can attack U.S. satellites,” Bloomberg reported.
The U.S. space agency began a mission late last year, launching spacecraft that is expected next month to intercept and deflect a pair of asteroids far out in deep space to keep them from threatening Earth.
Dubbed the DART Mission, or the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) sent a spacecraft to a pair of asteroids — the Didymos binary — on November 24 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
If all goes as planned, DART will smash into one of the two asteroids, known as Didymoon, at roughly 13,500 mph nearly a full year later, between September 26 and October 2, 2022.
Didymoon is more than 500 feet wide and orbits a much larger space rock known as Didymos, which is five times as big.
Didymoon came relatively close to Earth in 2003 — at least in space terms. The asteroid came within 3.7 million miles. “Of the two asteroids, Didymoon is more likely to hit Earth, given there are more space rocks its size that NASA and the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) have yet to observe,” the Daily Mail reported.
NASA considers any near-Earth object (NEO) as “potentially hazardous” if it comes within 0.05 astronomical units (4.6 million miles) and measures more than 460 feet in diameter, said the Mail. “According to the U.S. space agency, there are just over 25,000 NEOs, but many more are waiting to be discovered.”
“DART will be the first demonstration of the kinetic impactor technique, which involves sending one or more large, high-speed spacecraft into the path of an asteroid in space to change its motion,” NASA said in a statement.
Back in 2017, NASA explained what the kinetic impactor technique is.
“Kinetic impaction involves sending one or more large, high-speed spacecraft into the path of an approaching near-earth object. This could deflect the asteroid into a different trajectory, steering it away from the Earth’s orbital path. NASA demonstrated on a small scale with the Deep Impact mission of 2005. If preparations were made in advance so that kinetic impactors were available upon detection, the National Academy of Sciences would require a warning time of at least 1 to 2 years for smaller asteroids,” NASA said.
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent for a national newspaper. He was also the a.m. editor of the Drudge Report for four years. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.