Bearing a magnitude that could potentially leave a six-mile wide crater upon impact and blanket the world with dust, an estimated half-mile diameter asteroid named 1998 OR2 was expected to pass on Earth, but NASA is not troubled due to its course.
Found to be crossing the plant at a distance of 4 million miles, NASA declared the 1998 OR2 as “harmless.” However, its presence only paves the way for an idea that another—or worse—event could also potentially take place in the future, prompting the US agency to launch an experiment in space aimed at testing a certain defense capability against similar threats.
One of world’s best scientists in asteroid detection, Amy Mainzer from the University of Arizona, says that “it’s smaller than the thing thought to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, but it is easily capable of causing a lot of damage.” If it hits the earth, there’s going to be massive damage and possibly millions of lives will be affected.
Dubbed as the Double Asteroid Redirection Test or DART, the project involves NASA deploying a possibly unmanned spacecraft with the purpose of deliberately slamming it on an asteroid and potentially affecting another by affecting its course. The idea, as it appears, is akin to playing a billiard where one ball hits another, but against a moving target with the aim of deflecting.
The target of the experiment will involve two asteroids with a close proximity to one another in the same orbit. One aspect of the experiment is to see the effect of the impact that will be measured based on the displacement of the affected asteroid, which would be indicative of how effective or not the method is.
With literally hundreds of thousands loitering the space, the task of combatting a threat coming from space, however, would primarily involve finding it in the first place.
Source: National Geographic