The United States and Europe will launch a joint mission in order to find out if they can really knock an asteroid out of its orbit.
The idea behind the effort, aptly named Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment, or AIDA, is to launch two spacecrafts with the intention of intercepting a pair of binary asteroids named Didymos. The asteroids orbit each another as they travel around the sun when it is closest to Earth. According to researchers, that event will take place in the year 2022, as Didymos will be just 11 million kilometers away from our planet.
A 600-pound spacecraft developed by a team at Johns Hopkins University would smash into the smaller of the two asteroids, which in turn would knock the bigger asteroid out of orbit.
The idea gained strength after the largest meteor to hit Earth in a century exploded over Russia just a week ago. After two years of research, the mission is still very much in the planning stage. It will not be launched until 2022.
Many scientists around the world are still scratching their heads over last week's cosmic coincidence, as the biggest meteor to hit Earth in more than 100 years struck Russia just hours before a massive asteroid made a close pass. The incident has scientists, the United Nations and even Congress scrambling to develop new ways of better identifying asteroids that could possibly threaten life on Earth.
The meteor that exploded over Russia carried the explosive force of 20 Hiroshima bombs. Only hours after the meteor hit Russia, a 150-foot asteroid missed earth by only 17,000 miles.
NASA officials say there was no connection between the two. However, they also say it is just a kind of reminder to the growing threat that asteroids can pose to Earth.
Experts say this could be a cosmic warning shot and a perfect reason to continue investing in space science like the AIDA mission.