NASA is preparing to launch the spacecraft that will deliberately hit an asteroid with high speeds. It will serve as a test for the “planetary defense mission” of NASA.
NASA has sent a spacecraft into space to attempt to change the path of an asteroid by smashing it into a speeding rock. This is in order to determine if it is possible to shield Earth from potentially dangerous space objects. Called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), the mission — worth $330 million — is part of a larger-scale “planetary defense” program. Although it was only able to deflect Earth-threatening satellites virtually, a space probe with real capabilities will now be launched 6.8 million miles from Earth in order to strike an asteroid.
NASA’s planetary defense officer Lindley Johnson said that detecting potentially dangerous space rocks is essential to protecting our planet. He spoke out during an online briefing Thursday.It is not something we want to find ourselves in, where an asteroid heads towards Earth. Then, we will have to prove that capability.He replied, “Yes.”
Engineers have worked on the spacecraft that will crash soon for more than a decade to challenge the effectiveness in shooting asteroids off-course. It is scheduled to launch aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which will take it from California’s base on November 23. The spacecraft should reach its target by September 2013.
DART plans to make contact with Dimorphos, a 4.5-billion-year-old asteroid. DART travels at 15,000mph (24,000 kph). This asteroid is described as “Fine grain combination of metal and rockDimorphos has a diameter of 525 feet, or 160 meters. It orbits Didymos at a distance approximately 0.75 miles (1 km). This asteroid is roughly equal in diameter to Burj Khalifa, the tallest building on the planet.
At impact, the DART spacecraft (roughly 1,210 pounds) will be around 550 kg. Although the impact will not cause an asteroid to be destroyed, it will “”Give it a gentle push“To deflect it’s path,” scientists stated.
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Ground-based telescopes will allow for the observation of the kinetic impact as well as its immediate effects. A miniature satellite equipped with a camera, which will also be used to observe the impact before it occurs, is being ejected from spacecraft. This will give scientists more insight into whether or not redirection can be achieved and the time needed to stop a true catastrophe.
Astronomers believe there are approximately 25,000 near Earth asteroids that could cause widespread destruction if they were to strike our planet. Earth receives tons of space debris and dust every day from smaller asteroids that are about one meter in diameter.
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