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NASA to Launch $1.25 Billion Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) in 2021

Sep 21, 2016 05:57 AM EDT
Massive Smash-Up at Vega
NASA is planning to launch an Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) to improve Earth's "planetary defense techniques" in case of an impending asteroid collision.
(Photo : NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (SSC)/Wikimedia Commons)

Asteroids pose a constant threat to Earth and mankind, but these ferocious space rocks can also provide a ton of information about the origin and formation of the Solar System and the universe. This is the reason why NASA and private companies are interested in gathering more information on asteroids. NASA is planning on launching an Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) in 2021, just a few years after the llaunch of asteroid-mapping mission OSIRIS-REx.

The OSIRIS-REx mission was launched to space this month to perform surface mapping of asteroid Bennu. The mission is also tasked to collect asteroid samples using its robotic arm and to bring the samples back to Earth for analysis.

Since the first asteroid mission is purely scientific in nature, NASA ARM mission will be focused on protecting the Earth from an asteroid collision. Even the White House science chief believes that the Earth is not prepared in case of an asteroid impact, implying a greater possibility that the $1.25 billion ARM project is likely to push through.

"Could we be hit by an Armageddon-sized asteroid, and the answer is 'absolutely," Dr. Laurence Garvie from the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University said in a statement. "And here's the interesting thing, or maybe scary thing I don't know which, we will be hit by an Armageddon-sized asteroid at some point in the future."

NASA's first ever robotic mission to visit a near-Earth asteroid aims to collect a large boulder from a space rock and redirect it into a more "stable" orbit around the moon. According to NASA, ARM is also directly linked to the manned mission to Mars in 2030.

"The robotic mission also will demonstrate planetary defense techniques to deflect dangerous asteroids and protect Earth if needed in the future," a NASA official said in a press release.

No one really knows when an asteroid will hit Earth, but the agency and scientists around the world are constantly thinking of ways to improve asteroid predictions to enable preparation of such an event.

This is where the new mission comes to play. ARM will protect the Earth from asteroid impact by preventing predictable collisions, potentially saving lives and the planet itself. ARM will be designed to redirect asteroids predicted to hit Earth ahead of time.

Reports say that there is a total of 15,000 objects that intersect with the Earth's orbit that may, in the future, pose a threat to the planet.

Read more:
NASA to Map Surface of an Asteroid, Collect Samples

 

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