NASA’s plan to save the world from an asteroid? Ram it with a rocket, of course!

planetary resources asteroid mining
Does art really imitate life or is it actually the other way around? After all, when Michael Bay created the classic (and yes, I really do think it’s a classic) film Armageddon nearly two decades ago, he couldn’t have imagined that NASA would borrow his fictionalized plot and apply it in real life. But lo and behold, the future is upon us, and when it comes to rocket scientists looking for ways to save the world, Mr. Bay’s notions aren’t looking too shabby. A joint effort between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) has manifested itself in a project known as Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment (AIDA), which as the name suggests, looks to protect the denizens of our great planet from giant incoming rocks. And at the heart of the project is the plan to ram an asteroid with a spaceship. 

The asteroid in question is the 65803 Didymos, a rather intimidating asteroid system that involves a smaller asteroid orbiting its big brother. But fret not — AIDA is here to save the day with two separate spacecrafts, one European and one American. In a two-step process, the ESA and NASA seek to study and subsequently destroy the incoming system — in 2020, ESA will launch Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM), the first of the two spacecrafts, in order to take notes regarding the orbit of both Didymos and little brother Didymoon (the orbiting one). Once AIM has come back with the information, NASA will launch the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (or DART, for short), in 2022.

And then DART will ram itself into Didymoon

It’s not the most elegant solution, but it’s pretty glorious and decidedly American in its brute display of sheer strength. And really, the purpose of the project is to see just how much strength is actually necessary when it comes to deflecting an asteroid. “To deflect an asteroid that may be on an impact path with the Earth,” Lindley Johnson of NASA told The Daily Beast, “we simply must either speed up its orbital velocity a small amount or slow it down a small amount.” Johnson continued, “But if you were add or subtract just an inch per second of velocity to the asteroid, that will over time change the position of the asteroid in its orbit enough that in a couple of years the asteroid will miss the Earth.” So now, we just need to figure out “how much force is required to impart that inch per second of velocity change.”

Despite their considerable presence in sci-fi movies and the collective public safety conscience, asteroids aren’t the best understood extraterrestrial objects, which is something AIDA is looking to change. “To protect Earth from potentially hazardous impacts, we need to understand asteroids much better,” said Patrick Michel, head of the AIM team, at the European Planetary Science Congress. “AIDA will be the first mission to study an asteroid binary system, as well as the first to test whether we can deflect an asteroid through an impact with a spacecraft.”

Godspeed, rocket scientists. You may just need it.

Movies & TV

11 Hollywood heavyweights who jumped from the big screen to the small screen

From Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep to James Franco and Mahershala Ali, lots of Hollywood A-list actors with successful film careers are flocking to television projects during the second Golden Age of Television.

Google Fi: Phones, plans, pricing, perks, and more explained

Google's wireless service, formerly Project Fi, now goes by the name of Google Fi, and it's now compatible with a majority of Android phones, as well as iPhones. Here's everything you need to know about Google Fi.

Is Google launching a game-streaming service? Watch our GDC livestream to see

Google is presenting its 2019 GDC keynote on March 19. Here is how you can tune in to watch the event, as well as what could be shown during the presentation. Google's Project Stream service could be on the agenda.
Emerging Tech

Don’t get burned! How to back crowdfunding projects the smart way

In the world of crowdfunding, there’s no such thing as a sure thing. There's a million reasons why a project might fail. But with this handy guide, you'll be able to spot the signs of a sketchy project and decrease your chances of getting…
Emerging Tech

Take a dip in the Lagoon Nebula in first image from SPECULOOS instrument

The European Southern Observatory has released the first image collected by their new SPECULOOS instrument, and it's a stunning portrait of the Lagoon Nebula, a swirling cloud of dust and gas where new stars are born.
Emerging Tech

Robot assistants from Toyota and Panasonic gear up for the Tokyo Olympics

Japan plans to use the 2020 Olympics to showcase a range of its advanced technologies. Toyota and Panasonic are already getting in on the act, recently unveiling several robotic designs that they intend to deploy at the event.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-generated text is supercharging fake news. This is how we fight back

A new A.I. tool is reportedly able to spot passages of text written by algorithm. Here's why similar systems might prove essential in a world of fake news created by smart machines.
Emerging Tech

Racing to catch a flight? Robot valet at French airport will park your car

Hate searching for parking at the airport when you need to catch a plane? Startup Stanley Robotics recently unveiled a new outdoor automated robotic valet system. Here's how it works.

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

The bag you use to tote your stuff can affect the experience of any trip. In response, suitcases are wising up, and there are now options for smart luggage with scales, tracking, and more. Here are our favorite pieces.

At $99, Nvidia’s Jetson Nano minicomputer seeks to bring robotics to the masses

Nvidia announced a new A.I. computer, the Jetson Nano. This computer comes with an 128-core GPU that Nvidia claims can handle pretty much any A.I. framework you could imagine. At $99, it's an affordable way for A.I. newbies to get involved.

Nvidia’s A.I. Playground lets you edit photos, experience deep learning research

Nvidia is making it easier to access information on deep learning research. It has launched an online space with three demos for image editing, styling, as well as photorealistic image synthesis. 

British Airways’ new Club Suite for business class comes with a door

British Airways is going after a bigger slice of the business class market with the imminent launch of the Club Suite. The plush seating option offers a more private space as well as an easier route to the bathroom.
Smart Home

Sony’s Aibo robot dog can now patrol your home for persons of interest

Sony released the all-new Aibo in the U.S. around nine months ago, and since then the robot dog has (hopefully) been melting owners' hearts with its cute looks and clever tricks. Now it has a new one up its sleeve.
Emerging Tech

Inflating smart pills could be a painless alternative to injections

Could an inflating pill containing hidden microneedles replace painful injections? The creators of the RaniPill robotic capsule think so — and they have the human trials to prove it.