China Chooses Asteroid for Planetary Defense Experiment
China has chosen a small, near-Earth asteroid as the target for an upcoming mission that will help it prepare for future threats from incoming space rocks.
Astronomers could soon receive warnings if SpaceX satellites threaten their view
The mission targets an asteroid 2019 VL5a small object that is about 33 meters tall in diameter and orbits the Sun every 365 days, bringing it close to Earth. Chen Qi of China’s Deep Space Exploration Laboratory revealed the goal of the planetary defense mission during a presentation at the 8th IAA Planetary Defense Conference in Vienna, Austria last week SpaceNews.
China’s planetary defense test is scheduled to start in 2025 and will include both an observer and an impactor spacecraft housed in a Long March 3B rocket. Once launched, each spacecraft will follow a different trajectory, according to Wu Weiren, chief designer of China’s lunar exploration program revealed the mission plan to China’s CCTV in November 2022. A spacecraft will first reach the asteroid 2019 VL5 to survey it and study its topography, while the second spacecraft will follow a collision course with the asteroid.
The impactor spacecraft will smash into the small asteroid in hopes of deflecting its trajectory by 1 to 2 inches (3 ton 5 centimeters). The deviation may initially appear insignificant, but over time, Wu said, it could increase to 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) within three months.
After the impact, the observer spaceship returns Check in on the asteroid. China has also been preparing for follow-up observations using ground-based telescopes as well as space telescopes like Xuntian, SpaceNews reported.
China’s planetary defense test is similar NASA’s DART mission, which crashed into an asteroid in September 2022 and successfully changed its trajectory. DART targeted a binary asteroid system that collided with Dimorphos, a 525-foot-wide (160-meter) asteroid orbiting a larger space rock. However, China’s mission is targeting a much smaller asteroid, sending two spacecraft after it instead.
The Chinese Space Agency announced its asteroid-smashing mission last year, which revealed the country’s plans to build a full planetary defense system that includes tracking near-Earth objects, collecting meteorites and developing deflection technologies. “Also, there is little gain for everyone to compete on this front because we face an extraterrestrial threat,” said Ye Quanzhi, an astronomer and researcher at the University of Maryland The Planetary Society. “So I think China’s potential emergence as a new player can open opportunities for cooperation.”
China’s space program competes with the US on most fronts, including establishing a sustained presence on the lunar surface. WHowever, when it comes to planetary defense, maybe The two countries can join forces against a common threat.
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