WASHINGTON — NASA and the European Space Agency plan to stage a planetary defense mission called the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment, or AIDA, collaboration, beginning in 2021.
The mission will hit and study the Didymos pair, a near-Earth asteroid orbited by a smaller moon called Dimorphos. The larger asteroid is about 780 meters, or 0.48 miles, in diameter. The smaller body is 163 meters in diameter, or 535 feet.
The binary system is not on a collision course with Earth. Instead, it is being targeted to provide a baseline for planning planetary defence strategies if a real threat were to occur, including how much force is needed to shift the orbit of an incoming asteroid.
NASA’s component of the mission is an asteroid impactor called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, which will launch in a window opening on July 22, 2021. It will reach the Didymos system in late September of 2022.
The European Space Agency’s component of the mission, called Hera, is scheduled to fly by Didymos in 2026 for followup observations.
SOURCES: NASA, ESA