NASA to test ground-based redirect technique for asteroid impact

NASA will test a way to deflect an asteroid the size of a football field from an Earth impact by drilling a hole in a near-Earth asteroid, landing a probe on the surface and plunging a spacecraft to the surface to experiment with deflecting an asteroid on the way to impact Earth in the mid-2020s.

“The NFIRS [Near-Earth Object Program Office] will collect a rock sample from LRO at the beginning of mission and then use the Alice robotic rovers for months to learn more about how such a sample is retrieved,” agency officials explained.

This test includes the Asteroid Bennu mission, which will send a special probe toward the asteroid to collect materials. It will then return to Earth with a sliver of material, creating a sample return mission that could provide clues about the origins of our solar system in 2020-2024.

“The control experiment will be done at an exact distance from Earth of roughly 550,000 miles or less. During this maneuver, the robotic rover will encounter the asteroid, only to end up in a predetermined crater,” officials with NASA Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C., said in a statement.

“The orbiting spacecraft will then crash into the asteroid to gain perspective on its surface structure. Because NASA is now on track to launch the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) to study this asteroid, the control experiment won’t be done until 2020,” NASA officials said.

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