NASA: Bring on the asteroid, so we can chuck a fridge at it

Putting Bruce Willis out of work

NASA has okayed one of its save-the-world-from-asteroids proposals to move to the preliminary design phase, on the way to a hoped-for launch early in the 2020s.

If it goes ahead, the DART – Double Asteroid Redirection Test – will start with what the space agency describes as “a non-threatening small asteroid”. That way, presumably, if it gets knocked the wrong way, it won't bring about some kind of metropolitan (or global) catastrophe.

NASA's announcement identifies asteroid binary system Didymos as the target.

Only one half of the binary, though – the smaller half, a mere 160 metres in size (NASA classifies asteroids greater than 1 km in diameter as threatening), Didymos B. The primary in the system (Didymos A) is an impressive 780 metres across.

Being a binary is what makes Didymos a handy test-bed: DART will be designed to change Didymos B's orbit around its primary, not take it out of orbit entirely. That way, the agency's boffins can study the effects of an impact with minimal risk to Earth.

Program scientist Tom Statler says the experiment won't “change the orbit of the pair around the sun”.

Having flown to Didymos, the refrigerator-sized DART will aim itself at the smaller asteroid, impacting it at around 6 km per second (“about nine times faster than a bullet”, NASA explains).

Youtube Video

Both the impact and the change to Didymos B's orbit will be visible to Earth-based observatories, so scientists can see how well kinetic impact works on an asteroid.

Only a small change in a threatening asteroid's orbit would be needed to swing it away from Earth, as long as it happens “well before the predicted impact”. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Robotics and 5G to spur growth of SoC industry – report
    Big OEMs hogging production and COVID causing supply issues

    The system-on-chip (SoC) side of the semiconductor industry is poised for growth between now and 2026, when it's predicted to be worth $6.85 billion, according to an analyst's report. 

    Chances are good that there's an SoC-powered device within arm's reach of you: the tiny integrated circuits contain everything needed for a basic computer, leading to their proliferation in mobile, IoT and smart devices. 

    The report predicting the growth comes from advisory biz Technavio, which looked at a long list of companies in the SoC market. Vendors it analyzed include Apple, Broadcom, Intel, Nvidia, TSMC, Toshiba, and more. The company predicts that much of the growth between now and 2026 will stem primarily from robotics and 5G. 

    Continue reading
  • Deepfake attacks can easily trick live facial recognition systems online
    Plus: Next PyTorch release will support Apple GPUs so devs can train neural networks on their own laptops

    In brief Miscreants can easily steal someone else's identity by tricking live facial recognition software using deepfakes, according to a new report.

    Sensity AI, a startup focused on tackling identity fraud, carried out a series of pretend attacks. Engineers scanned the image of someone from an ID card, and mapped their likeness onto another person's face. Sensity then tested whether they could breach live facial recognition systems by tricking them into believing the pretend attacker is a real user.

    So-called "liveness tests" try to authenticate identities in real-time, relying on images or video streams from cameras like face recognition used to unlock mobile phones, for example. Nine out of ten vendors failed Sensity's live deepfake attacks.

    Continue reading
  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022