Saturday , June 10 2023

NASA will attempt to knock an asteroid out of orbit in 2022


If an asteroid were to head towards Earth, we would be very defenceless as we had not successfully developed a method that would have reduced the impact of – or completely avert – a devastating collision.

However, that may be about to change. NASA has approved a project called Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), the aim of which is to throw a "small" asteroid off course in October 2022.

The asteroid in question, informally known as Didymoon, is a moon asteroid about 150 meters tall. It's part of a double asteroid system, named after the Greek word for twins – Didymos – in which it orbits another 800-meter asteroid about a kilometer away.

The European Space Agency is also involved in the mission

When DART is launched, it will be powered by a solar electric propulsion system and will eventually collide with Didymoon.

The spacecraft will also be accompanied by a European Space Agency (ESA) called Hera, which will be largely responsible for collating data about the asteroid – however, according to Space, it will not be on site; it will be present thenwards.

Read more: NASA found rare, extraterrestrial meteorite fragments in the ocean

According to the ESA, when Hera launches it will be accompanied by two small CubeSats – nanosatellites no more than a cereal package – that will record additional data such as the gravitational field and the internal structure of the asteroid.

The two satellites will be released around the asteroids and will land on the two space rocks.

The asteroid's orbit will be redirected with the kinetic impactor technique

"DART would be NASA's first mission to demonstrate what's known as the kinetic impacter technique – striking the asteroid to shift its orbit – to defend against a potential future asteroid impact," Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a statement.

The idea is that the DART spacecraft, which weighs in at 500 kilograms, will hit the asteroid at six kilometers per second, changing its orbital velocity around Didymos by about 0.4 millimeters per second. This may sound a negligible figure, but the reorientation will be substantial enough to be measured from Earth with telescopes.

Read also: The White House is considering nuking asteroids, according to a NASA report

"DART is a critical step in demonstrating we can protect our planet from a future asteroid impact," said Andy Cheng of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, the DART investigation co-lead. "Since we do not know that much about their internal structure or composition, we can show how to protect Earth from an asteroid strike with a kinetic impactor by knocking the hazardous object into a different flight path that would not threaten the planet. "

Here's an animation of what the probe's impact may look like.

The launch of the mission is scheduled to take place between December 2020 and May 2021.

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