UPSC PRELIMS 2020: How to deflect an asteroid

How to deflect an asteroid

Topic: How to deflect an asteroid


Topic in Syllabus: Science and Technology

How to deflect an asteroid


Asteroid hit is widely acknowledged as eventually it caused extinction of life on Earth.


Methods to deal with:

  • Blowing up the asteroid before it reaches Earth.
  • Deflecting it off its Earth-bound course by hitting it with a spacecraft.


NASA mission:

  • It is an ambitious double-spacecraft mission to deflect an asteroid in space.
  • It is known as the Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment (AIDA).
  • NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) will be jointly undertaking it.



  • The target is the smaller of two bodies in the “Double Didymos Asteroids” that are in orbit between Earth and Mars.
  • Didymos is a near-Earth asteroid system.
  • The project aims to deflect the orbit of the smaller body through an impact by one spacecraft.
  • Then a second spacecraft will survey the crash site and gather the maximum possible data on the effect of this collision.



  • NASA is building the Double Asteroid Impact Test (DART) spacecraft for launch in summer 2021.
  • ESA’s contribution is a mission called Hera, which will perform a close-up survey of the post-impact asteroid, acquiring measurements such as the asteroid’s mass and detailed crater shape.
  • All this would allow researchers to model the efficiency of the collision.



  • CubeSats are a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites.
  • CubeSats are built to standard dimensions (Units or “U”) of 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm.
  • They can be 1U, 2U, 3U, or 6U in size, and typically weigh less than 1.33 kg (3 lbs) per U.


Sample Question:

NASA has built its first mission to work as a planetary defence mechanism against cosmic impacts called DART. What does it stand for?

a) Double Asteroid Reducing Test
b) Double Asteroid Reduction Test
c) Double Asteroid Redirection Test
d) Double Asteroid Redirecting Test

Answer: c)