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NASA-ESA Project Will Shoot an Asteroid To See What Happens 113

astroengine writes What better way to understand how to deflect an incoming asteroid than to smash into one to see what happens? This may sound like the storyline to a certain science fiction movie involving a team of oil drillers, but this is science fact, and Europe has started planning a mission to map a small target asteroid that NASA will attempt to shoot with a speeding spacecraft, no nukes required. As the first half of the joint Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment mission, the European Space Agency this month has started planning for the launch of its Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) in October 2020. AIM's target will be the binary asteroid system of Didymos, which is composed of a main 800 meter-wide hunk of space rock circled by a smaller 170 meter-wide asteroid informally known as "Didymoon." It's the smaller asteroid that the joint NASA/ESA mission is interested in bullying.
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NASA-ESA Project Will Shoot an Asteroid To See What Happens

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  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Thursday April 02, 2015 @09:32AM (#49390995)
    Why am I imagining "hey, y'all, watch this!"?
    • by geeper ( 883542 ) on Thursday April 02, 2015 @09:36AM (#49391015)
      Yes, it would be ironic if the asteroid that wiped out the human race was one we smashed into just to see what would happen.
      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday April 02, 2015 @09:59AM (#49391169)

        Yes, it would be ironic if the asteroid that wiped out the human race was one we smashed into just to see what would happen.

        ... or if it turns out that the "asteroid" is a camouflaged Vogon starship, and by attacking it, we trigger an interstellar war.

        • by Samantha Wright ( 1324923 ) on Thursday April 02, 2015 @10:08AM (#49391225) Homepage Journal
          There's no point in acting all surprised about it. All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display at your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for fifty of your Earth years, so you've had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaints, and it's far too late to start making a fuss about it now.

          What do you mean you've never been to Alpha Centauri? Oh, for heaven's sake, mankind, it's only four light years away, you know! I'm sorry, but if you can't be bothered to take an interest in local affairs, that's your own regard. Energise the demolition beams! God, I don't know⦠apathetic bloody planet, I've no sympathy at allâ¦
        • If it is a Vogon starship it is part of the construction fleet that has come to destroy the Earth in order to build a hyperspace bypass so shooting it won't make matters any worse anyway.
          I can't believe that Slashdot missed that story yesterday...
        • by Aralic ( 563142 )

          ... or if it turns out that the "asteroid" is a camouflaged Vogon starship, and by attacking it, we trigger an interstellar war.

          Or prevent one.

    • Huld muh beer, Bubba! Imma fix'na push thehs 'ere rhed buht-un! Thehs oughta be a hewt-n-ollar!

    • Why am I thinking, "It's April Second - is the silliness over yet?" Geez Louise - the first of the sillies that I read yesterday hooked me. Really, I was disbelieving and believing at the same time. I had to read all the way through the article, then look at the next headline before I realized - "IT'S ALL BOGUS!!"

      So, now, today, we're shooting asteroids?

      How 'bout we just build a time machine, and go back to the arcades of 1980. We can shoot asteroids all day long.

    • Remember the "pet rock" craze? I just hope that this isn't a "pet asteroid" of a super-powerful alien!

    • Maybe they'll shoot the Moon to see what happens. Darker nights for more romantic journeys.
    • Nasa should borrow the navy's rail gun for you know testing purposes.

      Rapid fire space shots who wants to watch?

      • by cusco ( 717999 )

        Wish they would just give the Navy's R&D budget to NASA. We already know how to kill massive numbers of people and destroy an entire region's infrastructure, and neither of those process need to get any more efficient.

        • Making it more efficient would defeat the purpose: selling gear and maintenance, provided by firms located in congressional districts.

          I'm surprise no Keynesian has pointed with admiration to WW 1 trench warfare, which used up lots of military materiel. With better management by the belligerent nations, it could have lasted decades.

          • I'm surprise no Keynesian has pointed with admiration to WW 1 trench warfare, which used up lots of military materiel. With better management by the belligerent nations, it could have lasted decades.

            Considering that significant chunks of the current problems in the world are consequences of the mismanagement of the Middle East by the "victorious powers" in the aftermath of World War 1, you could make a fair argument that WW1 is continuing to this day.

            I note that the Ottoman Empire didn't have any significa

    • I was thinking more of this: []

    • Right?! I Distinctly heard someone say "Hold my beer, Jeb!"
    • So, does this mean that when this "smashed" asteroid's new trajectory causes it to hit another planet with sentient life that we will at fault? How does that law suit work?
    • by Livius ( 318358 )

      NASA-ESA Project Will Shoot an Asteroid...

      just to watch it die.

    • you forgot " hold my beer"
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Surely the effect of an impact could be simulated on a computer. I feel like the real benefit of this is the real life experience bringing a project like this from concept to fruition.

    • Re:Simulation (Score:5, Interesting)

      by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Thursday April 02, 2015 @09:59AM (#49391173)

      How would you simulate it on a computer when you don't know the internal make up of the asteroid?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, all the climate modelling we've done has certainly paid off.
      [rolling of eyes]

    • by Maritz ( 1829006 )
      We don't know how rigid or how porous they are internally. So as with everything else, real-life testing is required.
  • First the Chinese with their ASAT test that polluted LowEarthOrbit with thousands of fragments. Now the europeans want to zap a asteroidal moon! when will the madness stop?

    (/humor) for the slow witted...

    • NASA will shoot, not ESA.
      When it's a matter of shooting, US is best!

      • When the target is their foot, yes...
        • I think NASA is quite capable of shooting a rock in space, if they have not been dissolved by the next Republican government.

          • Meanwhile, NASA's mission now seems to be making Muslims feel good about themselves. BHO told Charles Bolden that one of his highest priorities should be "to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science ... and math and engineering."
            • by prefec2 ( 875483 )

              Is this some new form of Godwin's Law now new with Muslim instead of Nazi in it? Beside that I cannot see any relation to my post at all.

              • No, it's a perfectionist's law. If somebody you don't like ever said something that sounds bad when stripped of context and perhaps put into an unrelated context, that person is a bad person.

          • by cusco ( 717999 )

            I think "privatized" is the actual idea, as in selling off taxpayer-built assets for pennies on the dollar to wealthy cronies.

      • by phayes ( 202222 )

        Well of course, better US than THEM, no?

  • I was getting tired of all the April Fools crap yesterday, but I guess this is serious.

  • Looks like a very difficult project. The people involved will have to have a very special skill set.

    Might I suggest some training videos? [].

  • I'm sure the lifeforms on that asteroid will be very upset by this unprovoked act of aggression. There is no doubt that their leaders will retaliate by sending their biggest asteroid in a collision course with earth.
  • When I was a kid, I would normally miss the blockbuster movies because they would be rated either PG or R. Then I would wait for the cheap Italian version featuring rather well known actors who looked like they could pull off the lead, and maybe make it a considerable hit in 3rd World countries. Up to know I still find myself commenting poor man's Jason Statham or poor man's Bruce Willis

    The hunt is on for Poor man's Ben Affleck!

  • will shoot back.

    Personally I think it is a bad idea to shoot at asteroids. The last thing we need is a bunch of kilometer-sized rocks gunning for us. Sending them flowers and candy might be a better idea.


    • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

      This is why I'm against gun control! How else will we defend ourselves from these illegal alien asteroids!

  • If we have a good estimate of the mass of the asteroid and we know the mass and speed of our projectile, what is the mystery?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      We don't really know asteroid masses, though -- we know densities of iron and rock, but asteroids are probably porous to some extent, so we don't know how much of an asteroid is solid and how much is empty. Cracking one open with an impact is one way to find out for sure.

      • by bitingduck ( 810730 ) on Thursday April 02, 2015 @11:12AM (#49391663) Homepage

        A single data point isn't all that useful with respect to understanding the mass and composition of asteroids. There are potentially a variety of asteroids around-- ranging from solid hunks of metal or rock to loose bunches held together by their very weak mutual gravitational attraction. A test would be useful for demonstrating the ability to intercept one, navigate to an appropriate place to push, and then push. Depending on how far out they catch it, a very low thrust, very efficient thruster pushing for a long time might be able to produce a useful amount of deflection.

        • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

          Did you really have to bring up diversity?...I just want to judge an asteroid by it's cover. Next you'll be telling us we have to deal with black rocks, red rocks, yellow rocks, and even multicolored rocks, heaven help us! Then we'll have rocks that want to change their colors, or rocks that don't just come here, but go both ways. Oh, the humanity! Let's just build a fence and keep tell them to go back where they came from!

  • by sandbagger ( 654585 ) on Thursday April 02, 2015 @10:17AM (#49391289)

    This unprovoked attack on an asteroid may end up being more trouble than it's worse. We could end up bogged down in an endless conflict with it.

  • If it moves, shoot it.
  • Scientists all thought it was a clever idea to shoot at an asteroid... until the asteroid started shooting back!
  • by CreatureComfort ( 741652 ) on Thursday April 02, 2015 @11:24AM (#49391739)
    "I cast magic missile at the darkness!"
  • It will defend itself.
  • by Headw1nd ( 829599 ) on Thursday April 02, 2015 @11:42AM (#49391837)
    The Europeans go in trepidatiously, carefully measuring things, trying to understand the asteroid. A couple months later the US flies in fast and hot, and blows everything up, mission over. As an American, I love it.
    • by digsbo ( 1292334 )
      As an American, I'm often ashamed of the way we act. Then I read posts from acquaintances in Europe and the UK, and I am immediately proud to be an American again.
    • by jaxn ( 112189 )

      That sounds like the difference between Edison's and Tesla's approach to scientific experimentation.

  • is not amused
  • And it breaks off a piece that hurtles towards Las Vegas and is large enough to spell doom but too small to shoot. Goodbye, mon amies.
  • This is exactly why we need concealed carry laws. Asteroids have a right to defend themselves.
  • ... until our new alien overlords fire back. Damn risk takers at NASA...

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern