At 7:20 Central European Time on Wednesday, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will launch a spacecraft that will embark on a ten-month self-destruction journey. He’s about to collide with an asteroid. The experiment is to reveal the possibilities of Earth’s defense in the event that another space body is aimed at it.
The DART mission (Double Asteroid Redirection Test, translated as “asteroid redirection test”), the task is to determine whether the kinetic force of the probe impact into the asteroid is enough to deflect the body from its trajectory and thus prevent a catastrophe on Earth. The experiment consists of two consecutive tests. The first tests the asteroid’s ability to hit at all, and the second tests whether this “poke” is enough for the asteroid to change its trajectory. The information was brought by the portal Science Alert.
The goal of this mission is the “moon” of the asteroid Didymos called Dimorphos. The pair of cosmic bodies are located about seven million kilometers from Earth (about a quarter of the distance between Earth and Mars). The DART probe, with its 122 centimeters (the size of the probe body without solar panels, with which it is about 19 meters) is just a stone compared to the giant Dimorph measuring 163 meters in diameter. Even so, he has a chance to deviate the asteroid from its orbit.
Although Dimorphos is not currently a threat to our planet, a body its size has the potential to flatten an entire city. At the same time, NASA estimates that it knows of the existence of only 40 percent of space bodies larger than 140 meters near our planet.
Probe and asteroid collision illustrations:
NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab
If the DART mission proves successful, this method of “poking” the asteroid could become part of our planetary defense against similar threats in the future. But it has a catch. In order to successfully avert this threat, we must know about it ten years in advance. The development and construction of a similar satellite takes years and the asteroid collision must be planned at least two to three years before the potential collision with the Earth.
Comparison of the size of the probe, its purpose and famous earthworks:
The DART satellite will reach its destination in September 2022 and its collision with the asteroid Dimorphos will be under the watchful eye of astronomers here on Earth.
Nikolaos Stanko, TN.cz.