NASA and the European Space Agency want to answer the question: What could humanity do to protect itself if an asteroid came hurtling towards the Earth? As it turns out, Bruce Willis' services won't be needed.
ESA says it has started preliminary design work on its Asteroid Impact Mission, or AIM, which will test technologies for future deep-space missions and investigate planetary defence techniques.
In October 2020, ESA plans to travel to the binary asteroid system of Didymos to do reconnaissance on an asteroid moon called Didymoon, which is expected to come within 11 million km of Earth in 2022.
ESA will perform high-resolution visual, thermal and radar mapping of Didymoon and put down a lander.
"AIM should gather a rich scientific bounty — gaining valuable insights into the formation of our solar system — but these activities will also set the stage for a historic event to come," the space agency said in a press release.
That's where NASA comes in. In 2022, NASA will deploy Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, launching a probe that will crash straight into the asteroid moon at 6 km/s.
"The results will allow laboratory impact models to be calibrated on a large-scale basis, to fully understand how an asteroid would react to this kind of energy," Ian Carnelli, mission manager for ESA, said in a press release.
"In addition, DART's shifting of Didymoon's orbit will mark the first time humanity has altered the dynamics of the solar system in a measurable way.
"It will also give us a baseline for planning any future planetary defence strategies. We will gain insight into the kind of force needed to shift the orbit of any incoming asteroid, and better understand how the technique could be applied if a real threat were to occur."