What you should know
- The mission is to hit an asteroid and test whether it would be possible to throw a furious space rock off course if one were to threaten Earth.
- The DART spacecraft, short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, took off from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Tuesday.
- If all goes well, it will hit Dimorphos, an asteroid 525 feet in diameter, head-on at 15,000 miles per hour in September 2022.
NASA launched a spacecraft on Tuesday evening to smash an asteroid and test whether it would be possible to throw a furious space rock off course if one threatened Earth.
The DART spacecraft, short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, took off from Vandenberg Space Force Base on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in a $ 330 million project with echoes from the Bruce Willis film “Armageddon”.
If all goes well, it will hit Dimorphos, an asteroid 160 meters in diameter and a speed of 15,139 km / h, head-on in September 2022.
“That won’t destroy the asteroid. There will only be a small nudge, ”said Nancy Chabot, mission officer of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, who leads the project.
Dimorphos orbits a much larger asteroid called Didymos. The pair pose no threat to Earth, but they do offer scientists a way to measure the effectiveness of the collision.
Dimorphos completes an orbit of Didymos every 11 hours and 55 minutes. The goal of DART is a crash that slows Dimorphos down and causes it to fall closer to the larger asteroid, shortening its orbit by 10 minutes.
The change in orbit time is measured by telescopes on Earth. The minimum change for the mission to be considered successful is 73 seconds.
DART technology could prove useful in changing the course of an asteroid years or decades before it hits Earth with the potential for disaster.
A small nudge “would add up to a large change in its future position and the asteroid and Earth would not be on a collision course,” said Chabot.
NASA says it is testing how they would defend the planet when it came to life or death. Kim Baldonado reports November 23, 2021.
Scientists are constantly looking for asteroids and planning their courses to see if they could hit the planet.
“While there is currently no known asteroid that is on an impact course with Earth, we do know that there is a large population of near-Earth asteroids out there,” said Lindley Johnson, Planetary Defense Officer at NASA. “The key to planetary defense is to find them in good time before they pose a threat to impact.”
It will take DART 10 months to reach the pair of asteroids. The collision will take place approximately 11 million kilometers from Earth.
Look out for September 24, 2187: when the asteroid Bennu collides with Earth, then it will happen. Meanwhile, a team of scientists sent a lander to the asteroid to collect samples. Determining what the asteroid is made of can help track its trajectory and also provide insight into the beginnings of life on Earth.
Ten days in advance, DART will release a tiny observation probe supplied by the Italian space agency that will follow suit.
DART streams the video until it is destroyed on impact. Three minutes later, the vehicle following behind takes pictures of the point of impact and the ejected material.