Tech UPTechnologyThe future of humanity could depend on the success...

The future of humanity could depend on the success of this mission

 

It’s the most crucial suicide mission we’ve ever faced. NASA is preparing to hit the asteroid Dimorphos, in an effort to learn more about how we can protect Earth from an incoming space rock. It is not just another mission, since the future of humanity could depend on its success because we would finally know what to do when faced with the situation that an asteroid is on a direct collision course with our planet.

 

That’s what the DART mission is for.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, costing 330 million dollars (about 317 million euros), was launched in November 2021 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket destined to crash into the asteroid Dimorphos, a small asteroid discovered in 2003 by the Czech astronomer Petr Pravec, and which is part of the synchronous binary system headed by the twin celestial body 65805 Didymos.

DART, built and managed by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, will collide with this asteroid that poses no threat to Earth. The goal is to slightly change the asteroid’s motion in a way that can be accurately measured using ground-based telescopes. Using a deflection method called kinetic impact, it will provide us with important data to help better prepare for an asteroid that could pose an impact hazard to Earth, should it ever be discovered.

The spacecraft will arrive at a speed of about 15,000 miles per hour, targeting Dimorphos, said Nancy Chabot, DART coordination lead at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. A camera on the spacecraft, called DRACO, and autonomous navigation software will help the spacecraft detect and collide with Dimorphos. The spacecraft is about 100 times smaller than Dimorphos, so it won’t destroy the asteroid. The quick impact will only change the speed of the asteroid by 1% , which doesn’t sound like much, but it will change its orbital period by more than a minute.

The briefcase-sized CubeSat also travels by DART, and will unfold before impact so it can record what happens. Three minutes after impact, the CubeSat will fly by Dimorphos to capture images and video that will be transmitted to Earth.

shock and analysis

Approximately four years after the DART impact, ESA’s (European Space Agency) Hera project will carry out detailed studies of both asteroids, with a particular focus on the crater left by the DART collision and a precise determination of the mass of Dimorphos, explains NASA.

“DART is turning science fiction into science fact and is a testament to NASA’s proactivity and innovation for the benefit of all,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “In addition to all the ways that NASA studies our universe and our home planet, we are also working to protect that home, and this test will help demonstrate a viable way to protect our planet from a dangerous asteroid should it be discovered. one heading towards Earth.”

Although science fiction has given a good deal of the theme of asteroid impacts against planets, such as Armageddon, Deep Impact and, more recently, Don’t Look Up, the almost 200 impact craters that have been found so far around the world represent a good proof of the fact that the Earth has been hit – on numerous occasions – by asteroids for millennia and that it could happen again. You have to be prepared.

Reference: NASA DART MISSION

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