NASA’s Mission to Crash a Spacecraft Into an Asteroid Launches Subsequent Month



In March of this 12 months, a quarter-mile-wide asteroid flew by area at a velocity of 77,000 miles per hour. It was 5 instances farther from Earth than the moon, however that’s really thought-about fairly shut when the context is the entire photo voltaic system.
There’s not an enormous danger of an asteroid hitting Earth anytime within the foreseeable future. However NASA desires to be prepared, simply in case. In April the area company led a simulated asteroid impression state of affairs, testing how effectively federal companies, worldwide area companies, and different decision-makers, scientific establishments, and emergency managers might work collectively to avert disaster.
Now one other asteroid-deflecting initiative is underway, however this time, it’s getting far more actual.
There’s nonetheless no hazard of something colliding with Earth or threatening human lives. However NASA’s DART mission plans to purposely crash a spacecraft into an asteroid to attempt to alter its path.
DART stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Take a look at, and NASA has simply set its launch date for November 23 at 10:20 pm Pacific time. The spacecraft will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Pressure Base, positioned close to the California coast about 160 miles north of Los Angeles.
From there, it’s going to journey to an asteroid known as Didymos, taking a couple of 12 months to reach (it’s seven million miles away) and utilizing roll-out photo voltaic arrays to energy its electrical propulsion system.
Didymos is 2,560 toes vast and completes a rotation each 2.26 hours. It has a secondary physique, or moonlet, named Dimorphos that’s 525 toes vast. The 2 our bodies are simply over half a mile aside, and the moonlet revolves concerning the main as soon as each 11.9 hours.
Utilizing an onboard digicam and autonomous navigation software program, the spacecraft will crash itself into the moonlet at a velocity of virtually 15,000 miles per hour. NASA estimates that the collision will change Dimorphos’ velocity in its orbit round Didymos by only a fraction of 1 %, however that’s sufficient to change Dimorphos’ orbital interval by a number of minutes, sufficient to be noticed and measured from telescopes on Earth.
NASA plans to seize the entire thing on video. Ten days earlier than DART’s asteroid impression, the company will launch a miniaturized satellite tv for pc, known as LICIACube, outfitted with two optical cameras. The aim will likely be for the cubesat to fly previous Dimorphos round three minutes after DART hits its moonlet, permitting the cameras to seize photos of the impression’s results.
And that’s not all of the commentary the mission will get. The European Area Company plans to launch its Hera spacecraft (named for the Greek goddess of marriage!) in 2024 to see the consequences of DART up shut and intimately. Because the company notes in its description of the Hera mission, “By the point Hera reaches Didymos, in 2026, Dimorphos could have achieved historic significance: the primary object within the photo voltaic system to have its orbit shifted by human effort in a measurable manner.”
You possibly can watch NASA’s protection of the DART launch on NASA TV through the company’s app and web site.
Picture Credit score: NASA