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China Gearing Up To Conduct Asteroid Deflection Tests In 2025

China is currently drafting a planetary defense plan that will aim to alter the orbit of a potentially threatening asteroid. The plan involves a kinetic impactor test that will help researchers develop new systems that could counter potential threats posed by asteroids close to Earth. 

Wu Yanhua is the deputy director of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), and spoke with China Central Television about the current research and future testing the administration is planning. 

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“CNSA will establish an early warning system and develop software to simulate operations against the near Earth objects and test and verify basic procedures. Finally, a mission will make close up observations of a selected potentially dangerous asteroid and then impact the target to alter its orbit.”

The mission is currently scheduled to occur around the end of 2025 or 2026 as a part of the administration’s five-year plan period (2021-2025/26), according to Yanhua.

Yanhua explained that the system would help scientists deal with the threat of near Earth objects to humanity, as well as provide a multitude of new research and technology for China to use in the future. 

According to Yanhua, China “will study plans for building a near-earth object defense system, and increase the capacity of near-earth object monitoring, cataloging, early warning, and response over the 2021-2025 period.”

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China is not alone in their efforts to create new technologies and systems that could help protect the Earth from potential asteroids and other space objects that could hurdle into our atmosphere. 

NASA recently launched their Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) in November. The spacecraft is meant to collide with a minor-planet moon known as Dimorphous which is currently orbiting near an Earth asteroid named Didymos. The test is set to be in September of this year. 

The European Space Agency is also gearing up to send its Hera mission to Didymos and Dimorphous later in the decade after they examine the effects of the DART mission. 

Overall, international space stations everywhere are aware that asteroids and other space objects near Earth pose a potential threat to humanity, so these new systems are integral to our planets safety in the coming decade. 

Asteroid

Closest Ever Recorded Asteroid Flies Within 2,000 Miles Of Earth 

On August 16th an asteroid the size of a car flew past Earth, and NASA didn’t even know until after it already happened. The asteroid was 1,830 miles away from the Earth’s surface, which is the closest ever recorded asteroid fly-by according to experts. 

Reports claim that due to the asteroids relatively small size, even if it did strike Earth it likely wouldn’t have posed any danger as NASA would’ve been able to calculate where it would land before hand, however, many aren’t so convinced considering NASA wasn’t even aware an asteroid was coming that close to the surface in the first place. 

Paul Chosas is the director of NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies and recently reported that regardless of if the asteroid hit Earth or not, its close vicinity was a major wake up call, especially considering astronomers had no idea. 

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“The asteroid approached undetected from the direction of the sun, we didn’t see it coming.” 

According to reports NASA is only aware of a fraction of near-Earth objects (NEOs) like this asteroid, as most of them don’t cross any telescopes line of sight until after it’s already out of Earth’s general vicinity. However, this has become a major issue within the past few years, as this asteroid is just one of several that have snuck up on scientists. If scientists miss the wrong NEO, it could have the potential to wipe out tens of thousands of people unless interfered with. 

Early observations suggest the space rock, which is referred to as 2020 QG, flew over the Southern Hemisphere around 4 a.m. Universal Time this past Sunday. Again, after further calculations scientists determined 2020 QG to be of minimal threat due to its small size (they predict it was anywhere between 6 – 18 feet long). 

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If this asteroid did direct its path to collide with Earth, scientists claim it likely would’ve exploded in the atmosphere, which would create a pretty spectacular fireball. The explosion would’ve likely occurred 3 miles above the Earth’s surface. While this asteroid may not have posed any real threat for the planet, the fact that it was so small was pure luck, next time they could be dealing with a much larger NEO that actually is on track to collide with the Earth. 

According to NASA, “potentially hazardous NEOs are defined as space objects that come within .05 astronomical units and measure more than 460 feet in diameter.”

NASA is actively scanning the skies for threatening NEOs, something that they have been legally obligated to do since 2005. However, reports claim that Congress only requires the agency to detect 90% of space rocks that have the potential to wipe out major cities (rocks that are 460+ feet in diameter).

It’s assumed that within the history of NEOs flying by Earth there have been about 25,000 that got close, and NASA detected less than half of them when they were actually close to the planet. A big reason for this is because asteroids like 2020 QG that come from the direction of the sun are extremely difficult to spot and track. This is because scientists can’t point their telescopes near the sun without being overwhelmed by its brightness, so they have to wait until the night to track them.

The goal is always to identify and track them when they’re still light-years away from the planet. In order to improve on how often they’re able to detect NEOs, NASA has claimed they’re in the early stages of developing a new space telescope that can detect asteroids coming specifically from the sun’s direction. The project is set to cost around $36 million and will likely be completed by 2025.