Categories: Science
| On 7 days ago

NASA Launches a spacecraft to collide with an asteroid

By Aswin Kumar

NASA launched a spacecraft Tuesday night on a mission to crash into an asteroid to see if it’s possible to deflect a fast-moving space rock away from Earth if one were to threaten the planet.

The DART spacecraft, which stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, was launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in a $330 million mission that echoed the Bruce Willis film “Armageddon.”

If everything goes according to plan, it will collide with Dimorphos, a 525-foot-wide asteroid, at 15,000 mph in September 2022.

“This isn’t going to destroy the asteroid. It’s just going to give it a small nudge,” said Nancy Chabot of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, which is in charge of the project, is a mission official.

Dimorphos is orbited by Didymos, a considerably bigger asteroid. The two pose no threat to Earth, but they do provide scientists with a means to assess the collision’s effectiveness.

Dimorphos orbits Didymos once every 11 hours and 55 minutes. DART’s mission is to produce a collision that will slow Dimorphos down and make it fall closer to the larger asteroid, reducing its orbit by 10 minutes.

Earth-based telescopes will monitor the shift in the orbital period. The objective must change by at least 73 seconds to be declared successful.

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The DART technology might be used to alter the course of asteroid years or decades before it collides with Earth, posing a threat of disaster.

Scientists are continuously on the lookout for asteroids and plotting their paths to see if they could collide with Earth.

“Although there isn’t a currently known asteroid that’s on an impact course with the Earth, we do know that there is a large population of near-Earth asteroids out there,” said Lindley Johnson, NASA’s planetary defense officer. “The key to planetary defense is finding them well before they are an impact threat.”

The asteroid duo will take DART ten months to arrive. The crash will take place at a distance of 6.8 million miles from Earth.

DART will launch a small observation spacecraft donated by the Italian space agency ten days before the launch.

DART will continue to feed footage until it is obliterated by impact. The trailing craft will take photographs of the crash scene and expelled material three minutes later.

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Aswin Kumar

A creative science nerd! Buy me a coffee: buymeacoffee.com/aswinkumar

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