China has been aggressively building the roadmap for its asteroid monitoring and defense system to track and hit Earth directed asteroids and deflect them. NASA is also working on a similar system with its DART mission.
The space war is getting intense and everyone is aiming to build a system to destroy dangerous asteroids. These anti-asteroid missions can take out any space rock threatening the Earth. In November 2021, NASA finally launched its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) which is testing a planetary defense mechanism against all near-Earth objects (NEO). But it turns out, NASA is not the only one trying to build a system like this. China has been in a rush to boost its capabilities in space. Recently it tested out a new weapon system using which it can both capture and destroy another satellite. And now, it also wants to test an anti-asteroid system which would work along the same principles of NASA’s DART mission. But as the race between the two builds up, who might come out on top?
China enters the space race to create its anti-asteroid system
Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), announced in April that China will also focus on building a system that can both track NEOs and attack them to slightly deflect their path and avert any future instance of an asteroid strike. According to a tweet by Andrew Jones, a journalist for SpaceNews who covers China’s space industry, we have more information about China’s plans.
On July 12, Jones posted an image on Twitter. The image displays a lecture being delivered by Long Lehao, chief designer of China’s Long March series rockets. Behind Lehao, a presentation slide can be seen which sheds more light on China’s roadmap.
Explaining the image, Jones wrote, “New details on China’s asteroid deflection mission: launch in 2026 on Long March 3B rocket, targeting Earth-crossing, near-Earth asteroid 2020 PN1 (~40m diameter). It will combine an orbiter and impactor, according to a slide from a lecture by Long March designer Long Lehao”.
On the other hand, NASA DART mission is headed towards the minor-planet moon Dimorphos of the double asteroid Didymos and will collide with it between September 26 and October 2, 2022. So, for now it appears that NASA will have a clear lead in the race to the asteroid defense system. But it should be remembered that this is merely the first step towards building a functional, economically viable, accurate and reliable system.