The idea contains all the frightening disaster scenario, yet China couldn’t be more serious: The country has a space mission that involves shooting an asteroid to craft it.
The Chinese National Aerospace Center plans to launch more than twenty rockets into space toward the asteroid Bennu in order to divert the latter’s course.
The 500-meter asteroid is the one that recently received a visit from the Osiris-Rex probe that collected samples from it. Samples should return to us on September 24, 2023 for analysis.
These samples are of particular interest to scientists, especially since Bennu is considered to be of antiquity in space, and its composition would not have changed over the past 4.6 billion years, and the analysis should give us clues about the evolution of the universe and our solar system.
However, Bennu is also a concern: an asteroid is a near-Earth body: between 2175 and 2199, only 7.5 million km can pass from our Earth. If the collision risks were low, the impact would have dire consequences: it is estimated that it would be equivalent to a 1,200 megaton explosion.
This is why China is seriously considering putting in place a program to deflect the asteroid’s path before it becomes really dangerous.
Currently, the program is scheduled to send 23 Long March-5 rockets into space. Each rocket weighs 992 tons and synchronizes once in space to simultaneously hit the asteroid to deflect it more than 9,000 km
No launch date for the program has been set, but by then, NASA and the European Space Agency will have already tested their own system called DART (Double Asteroid Redirection) on Didymos asteroids.
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