In Armageddon, the Michael Bay-directed disaster film, a team of oil drillers are sent to space with astronauts to drill a bomb deep into an asteroid headed straight for Earth. Their plan is to detonate the bomb to alter the rock's trajectory. It's a ridiculous film mostly because Michael Bay directed it — He generally values explosions above plot and character development. However, real life is mirroring it to some extent with the news that scientists will alter an asteroid's course by crashing a spacecraft into it.
The mission is a collaboration between the U.S. and European Asteroid Deflection And Assessment (AIDA) project. The idea is to send a small spacecraft to crash into an egg-shaped rock known as Didymoon to see if the impact changes its path. Didymoon doesn't pose an imminent threat to Earth; the mission is merely an attempt to test whether such plans would work in the event that a civilization-threatening rock is hurtling straight at our planet.
The missions are set to launch in October 2020 and expected to reach Didymoon by May 2022. NASA will also send one craft in a mission called Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) with the same goal.
Dr. Patrick Michel, lead investigator for the European Space Agency half of the mission, told Independent, "To protect Earth from potentially hazardous impacts, we need to understand asteroids much better — what they are made of, their structure, origins and how they respond to collisions."
So no worries, there isn't any threat of an asteroid hitting Earth at the moment. And if that ever happens, it sounds like we'll be ready.
Cover image: Wikimedia