Boffins to fly spacecraft into asteroid in test that may stop Earths Armageddon

Boffins are to fly a spacecraft into an asteroid to see if they can knock it off course in a test that could save the Earth from a real-life Armageddon.

Later this month, NASA's DART spaceship will collide with a `moonlet’ called Dimorphos in a bid to shift its orbital trajectory.

The European Space Agency’s Hera ship will then fly out to study the aftermath of the impact on the rock – which is about the same size as the Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

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Scientists will use the data to calculate what they would need to do if they had to divert a giant asteroid heading for Earth-like the plot of 1998 movie Armageddon starring Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck.

A spokesman for the European Space Agency said the mission was humankind’s first test of the kinetic impactor planetary defence technique.

DART will hit Dimorphos on September 26 which "should shift its orbital trajectory in a small but measurable way observable from Earth".

Then the Hera spacecraft will fly out to "perform a close-up survey of the aftermath of impact" gathering "key information" such as the size of DART’s crater and mass, make-up and internal structure of the asteroid.

The spokesman said: "Hera’s extra data will help turn the DART deflection experiment into a well-understood, repeatable technique that might one day be needed for real."

Hera’s assembly, integration and test manager Karim Mellab said the mission was undergoing its last major review prior to launch.
The spacecraft was "fast taking shape" at its HQ in Bremen, Germany.

Two CubeSat mini satellites will accompany the ship – one to measure dust and the other to radar probe the asteroid.
Karim said: "The Hera team will be watching closely as DART approaches Dimorphos.

"Its impact is a moment that we have been looking forward to for many years.

"The initial glimpses of Dimorphos that DART sends back as it homes in on its target will be the very first time we get to see a place that all of us in the Hera team have been imagining for a very long time."

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