European space officials are seeking ideas to help develop a mission to knock an asteroid off its course, in case one day humans must pull off such a stunt to save Earth from a catastrophic space-rock collision.
The idea behind the joint US-European mission, dubbed AIDA (for Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment), is to send two small spacecraft to intercept a binary asteroid called Didymos, which is projected to travel past Earth in 2022. This space rock system is actually a pair of asteroids, one smaller, one larger, that orbit each other as they zoom around the sun.
One 660-pound (300 kilograms) spacecraft, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) craft developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, would smash into the smaller of the two asteroids. The impact would knock the 500-foot-wide (150 meters) space rock off its regular orbit.