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China Planning to Smash Asteroid in Planetary Defense Test

China Planning to Smash Asteroid in Planetary Defense Test
China Planning to Smash Asteroid in Planetary Defense Test


Mission to happen before 2030.

Hulk Smash

China is planning to launch a spacecraft with the aim of smashing a nearby asteroid, in an impact designed to test the feasibility of protecting against any Earth-threatening asteroids like the one that killed off the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago.

Researchers outlined their plans in a recent paper published in the Journal of Deep Space Exploration and spotted by The Planetary Society, saying that a test mission should happen before 2030 and that an asteroid with a diameter of about 30 meters will be the target.

Previously, the researchers had proposed a different asteroid dubbed 2019 VL5 as a target for this test mission, but the paper seems to indicate a new target with a similarly unwieldy name of 2015 XF261.

The team say the proposed spacecraft will consist of two parts: an “observer and an impactor,” which together are “planned to be launched as a dual-device combination.”

The observer probe will first arrive at the asteroid and maneuver around it while analyzing it for three to six months. Then an impactor probe will arrive and smash into the space rock while the observer probe studies the impact.

Deep Impact

NASA has been conducting its own testing for a planetary defense system, culminating in the 2022 hit of the 560-foot-wide asteroid Dimorphos with NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) — billed at the time as “the world’s first planetary defense technology demonstration.”

After DART struck the asteroid, NASA scientists concluded that the impact changed the satellite’s orbit and its shape, showing that it’s feasible to alter an asteroid’s trajectory.

To further protect Earth, NASA has been developing the NEO Surveyor (with NEO standing for Near-Earth Object), a space telescope slated to launch in June 2028 that’s intended to detect any outer space objects that might threaten Earth.

There are no known asteroids threatening Earth any time soon, but scientists are still trying to figure out the best course of action if one does come along.

With China working on the same task despite tensions with America, it’s reassuring that NASA isn’t the only space agency out there that’s worried about safeguarding our home planet.

More on asteroids: NASA’s Battering Ram Now Has Asteroid It’ll Smash in Its Sights

China Planning to Smash Asteroid in Planetary Defense Test

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