Humans, for whatever reason, love to think of ways our planet might be obliterated or at least how us humans will find an untimely demise. Asteroids are a popular target, a logical one since asteroids are known to have wiped out entire species and even most of the life on Earth on previous occasions.While an impact with an asteroid large enough to affect the entire planet is very rare, smaller ones can still level an entire city and kill millions of people in one go.
Both professional and amateur astronomers keep an eye out for asteroids that could be headed towards Earth, but even if we spot them there's not much we can do about it at the moment.
There have been some ideas on how to deflect or destroy an asteroid headed towards our planet and quite a few movies, but they're still just that, ideas.
ESA is working on a mission that explores the idea of deflecting an asteroid, changing its trajectory just enough to push it away from an Earth collision.
The mission is dubbed AIDA or Asteroid Impact and Deflection. NASA and ESA will send two small and cheap crafts towards a binary asteroid, 65803 Didymos which is made up of a small asteroid orbiting a larger one.
The two crafts will be nearly identical and the plan is to have one try to deflect the smaller asteroid while the other watches and records what happens.
The first craft, dubbed DART for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, is designed by US Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and will be the one smashing into the asteroid. ESA's AIM, Asteroid Impact Monitor, will see what happens.
The mission has been in the planning for some time, but ESA is now asking for help with some of the details. If you've got an idea of what the mission should do and what data is the most relevant, ESA wants your input.