It’s refreshing to see real science used to solve a genuine global threat for a change.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will soon launch a test mission to nudge an asteroid’s moon in a test to see if asteroid deflection is possible to protect our planet.
The space agency’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, is set to lift off at 1:20 a.m. EST on Nov. 24 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
The planetary defense mission is anticipated to make impact between Sept. 26 and Oct. 2, 2022 – striking its target at nearly 15,000 mph, 6.8 million miles away from Earth, officials said.
Live coverage of the launch will be shown on NASA TV, the agency’s app and its website.
“DART will be the first demonstration of the kinetic impactor technique, which involves sending one or more large, high-speed spacecraft into the path of an asteroid in space to change its motion,” NASA said.
The target of interest, the Didymos binary asteroid group, has sped close to Earth before.
DART will smash in one of the two asteroids, known as Didymoon, at roughly 13,500mph on October 2, 2022.
In doing so, it will change the speed of Didymoon a fraction of a percent, but it will be enough so NASA can measure its altered orbit.
This will provide valuable input into future missions to deflect asteroids.
At roughly 160 meters (524ft) wide, Didymoon orbits a much larger space rock known as Didymos that is approximately 780 meters (2,559ft) across.
Didymoon came relatively close to Earth in 2003, coming within 3.7 million miles.
Of the two asteroids, Didymoon is more likely to hit Earth, given there are more space rocks its size that NASA and the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) have yet to observe.
The spacecraft uses solar powered electric propulsion systems and will be launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
Once launched, DART will deploy Roll Out Solar Arrays (ROSA) to provide the solar power needed for DART’s electric propulsion system. The DART spacecraft will demonstrate the NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster – Commercial (NEXT-C) solar electric propulsion system as part of its in-space propulsion. NEXT-C is a next-generation system based on the Dawn spacecraft propulsion system, and was developed at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
By utilizing electric propulsion, DART could benefit from significant flexibility to the mission timeline while demonstrating the next generation of ion engine technology, with applications to potential future NASA missions.
DART will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
If the mission goes as plans, the results should be explosive.
When DART collides with Dimorphos, the impact energy will be about equivalent to three tons of TNT exploding, spraying thousands of pieces of debris into space. Slashgear, citing the MIT study, said the effect would be similar to a golf cart smashing into the side of a football stadium at 15,000 mph.
While the influence will not result in an instant shift in Dimorphos’ spin, this will occur over several days. Dimorphos will first display a little wobble, which will become more noticeable when the impact’s force pushes the asteroid’s spin out of equilibrium. Because there is no friction between the asteroid and outer space, the asteroid will continue to wobble until all of the impact energy has been transformed into asteroid motion. Dimorphos could spin in a variety of directions, including along its axis, like a rotisserie.
And anybody looking at Didymos’ sky from its surface would notice that the once-sedentary satellite is now swinging madly back and forth, with its previous “dark” side suddenly showing face.
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