NASA recently announced its decision of carrying on and advancing its DART or Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission. This will be trying to protect our planet from incoming and threatening space rocks by deflecting and changing their orbits.
This new project is a dual mission, carried out in collaboration with ESA (the European Space Agency). The bigger mission is known as the Asteroid Impact and Detection Assessment (AIDA). NASA and ESA will be looking to determine the possibility and probable requirements of knocking an asteroid off its orbit.
DART, One Step Closer to Reality
According to the latest statement from NASA, DART could be one step closer to reality than before as the space agency is set on escalating the mission from the concept development stage to the preliminary design one.
NASA gave its approval on advancing DART on June 23. A later public statement revealed that preliminary tests are scheduled to take place sometime in 2024. These would be the first of this type and would help demonstrate whether deflecting an asteroid would actually be possible.
“DART would be NASA’s first mission to demonstrate what’s known as the kinetic impactor technique – striking the asteroid to shift its orbit – to defend against a potential future asteroid impact,” stated Lindley Johnson.
He is the NASA planetary defense officer. The approval will advance the project towards a “historical test”, one that will target a “non-threatening, small asteroid” called Didymos.
This was first discovered back in 1996. Didymos is composed of two rocky bodies. The larger one is named Didymos A and is 2,560 feet across. Didymos B is the smaller one and is some 525 feet in size.
While the binary system will approach Earth in October 2022, but at a distance, it will come closer to our planet in 2024.
As it returns, the refrigerator-sized, self-piloting future DART spacecraft will collide with the smaller Didymos. The effects of this “meeting” will be closely analyzed and studied from Earth-based observatories.
Scientists point out that this will help further our knowledge about how kinetic impact physics. Or whether deflection can be an actual defense method against the already anticipated future planetary impacts.
Image Source: Wikimedia