How NASA's DART could save the planet from a killer asteroid
Welcome to What the Future, your destination for that tech that makes you say WTF.
First, some bad news.
Asteroid 2019 PDC has a one in ten chance of hitting the Earth in eight years.
The good news, asteroid 2019 PDC Doesn't actually exist.
In what sounds like an epic RPG, scientists from around the world gathered in Washington DC this week to come up with a response plan for a hypothetical earthbound asteroid with the potential to unleash serious damage to our home planet.
Okay, time out, my promise to you is that this video will be free of any Bruce Willis references
Way wrong answer
The simulation was designed by the NASA planetary defence coordination office, which lived tweeted the entire scenario.
And if you weren't reading the tweets carefully, you may have thought the earth actually facing a potential impending doom So in this scenario, it's 2019 and the asteroid is estimated to be between 140 and 220 meters wide with a 10% chance of hitting Earth in 2027.
NASA started taking the threat of asteroids more seriously back in 2013.
That's when a 65 foot meteor exploded in the atmosphere over a Russian city.
The shockwave damaged thousands of buildings and more than 1,500 people were hurt, mostly from broken windows and flying glass.
So what's the plan if we think the sky is actually falling?
NASA thinks the best option for diverting an asteroid actually isn't a nuclear blast.
Instead, it's using spaceships to push it onto a slightly different trajectory Which brings us to DART, NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test.
In 2021, NASA plans to launch an unmanned spacecraft called the Kinetic Impactor on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
It will head toward an 800 meter wide asteroid considered close to Earth, called Didymos A. But it will actually hit a smaller asteroid orbiting Didymos A, not surprisingly named Didymos B, which is about 150 meters wide.
The impacter will crash into Didymos B at a speed of 6 kilometers a second in hopes of changing its course by a fraction of 1%.
Now scientists will be able to observe the whole thing both from an onboard camera and with telescopes back on earth.
NASA is working toward a goal of being able to track 90% of asteroids that are at least 140 meters wide.
Those are big enough to wipe out an entire state or even a small country.
And it's already tracking 20,000 of what it calls near Earth asteroids like the dark target.
But none are at risk of hitting Earth, at least for about 100 years.
The closest they expect any time soon is ten years away when a 340 meter wide asteroid will come within 19,000 miles of earth.
That should be visible without a telescope.
So Mark your calendars for April 13th 2029.
That's it for this week.
I'm Andy Altman.
I'll see you in the future.