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China is developing its first asteroid deflection mission. To rival NASA?

NASA's own DART mission will reach its asteroid target later this year.

China is developing its first asteroid deflection mission. To rival NASA?
Asteroid in space near earth in sunlight. Kerrick/iStock

China continues working hard to become a leading space power.

In another example of the China National Space Administration (CNSA) aiming to rival NASA, the organization announced it aims to alter the orbit of a potentially threatening asteroid using a kinetic impactor test, a report from SpaceNews reveals.

China's planetary defense system test draws comparisons to NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, which launched in November 2021. It will collide with a minor-planet moon orbiting the asteroid Dimorphos in September this year.

China could alter the course of an asteroid this decade

China's CNSA is a few steps behind NASA, but it's in the process of outlining a planetary defense plan and will soon carry out research aimed at developing new systems for deflecting near-Earth asteroids.

During a press conference aired on China Central Television (CCTV), Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the CNSA, also said China aims to develop an early warning system as well as simulation software to test basic procedures for its planetary defense technologies.

If the initial parts of the process go to plan, China then aims to send a mission to observe a potentially dangerous asteroid and then impact the space rock to alter its trajectory. This mission is scheduled for 2026, Wu said at the conference.

The press conference was held in Wenchang, Hainan province, to mark China's seventh national space day on April 24, when the country launched its first satellite, Dongfanghong-1, into orbit in 1970. 

China and Russia partner to rival NASA

China's space agency has made great strides in recent years, providing the first on-site evidence of water from the Moon's surface this year. The country's space agency also recently announced it is developing a nuclear reactor for the Moon that it claims is one hundred times more powerful than NASA's similar model in development.

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Last March, meanwhile, China and Russia announced they were partnering to build a lunar space station to rival NASA's Gateway program. However, it's unclear whether Russia's invasion of Ukraine may have altered those plans — the country is losing countless space contracts, and its scientists are being sidelined following the invasion. If the program is still going ahead, the partners aim to launch it later this decade.

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