- The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) was launched last year and is due to collide with an asteroid on 26 September.
- NASA’s first ‘planetary defense’ craft will attempt to deflect asteroid Dimorphos, 6.8 million miles from us
- A $325 million mission may sound like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster like Armageddon or Deep Impact
- But it could prove useful for changing the course of an asteroid decades before or even decades before it hits Earth.
To throw a spacecraft into an asteroid to destroy it can be reminiscent of a Hollywood disaster movie such as Armageddon or Deep Impact.
But it’s certainly not fiction—in fact, it’s NASA’s ambitious planetary defense test that, if successful, could one day pave the way for protecting Earth from the devastating impact of space.
It is the US space agency’s first attempt at such a mission and will involve a spacecraft crashing into an asteroid 6.8 million miles from Earth at 15,000 mph in two weeks’ time.
The Dual Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) was launched last November almost a year ago Journey to crash into the smaller asteroid Dimorphos, which orbits a larger one called Didymos.
Didymos and Dimorphos will make their closest approach to Earth in late September, passing a distance of about 6.7 million miles (10.8 million kilometers) from the planet.
Effect is due on Monday, September 26 at 19:14 ET (00:14 BST) and can be viewed liven NASA TV and the agency’s YouTube channel.
Rome based Virtual Telescope Project has worked closely with several observatories in South Africa and will be showing the target asteroid in real time at the time of the scheduled impact.
The animation and graphic below show how the mission will work, while MailOnline also explains the purpose of the test and how it compares to some of the more famous asteroid-related disaster movies.
Brace for impact: NASA’s first ‘planetary defense’ spacecraft – sent to deflect an asteroid 6.8 million miles from Earth – is set to hit its target Monday, Sept. 26 . The graphic above shows how the mission will work
The spacecraft has captured images of its target double-asteroid system, including the asteroid into which it will crash, called Dimorphos, the asteroid moon of Didymos.
The double asteroid redirection test was launched last November ahead of a year-long journey to crash into the small asteroid Dimorphos, which orbits a larger planet called Didymos.
What is the NASA Dart Mission?
DART will be the world’s first planetary defense test mission.
It is headed towards the small moonless asteroid Dimorphos, which orbits a larger companion asteroid called Didymos.
When it gets there it will intentionally crash into the asteroid to slightly change its orbit.
While neither asteroid poses a threat to Earth, Dart’s kinetic effect would prove that a spacecraft could autonomously navigate to a target asteroid and kinetically impact it.
Then, using Earth-based telescopes to measure the impacts of the impact on the asteroid system, the mission will enhance modeling and predictive capabilities to help better prepare us for a real asteroid threat, should it ever be discovered.
Astronomers say anyone can tune it to see the impact, more precisely the change in brightness of the asteroid as a result of the collision.
If it’s successful, of course, that wasn’t the case in Deep Impact at all.
The 1998 film depicts efforts to prepare and destroy a 7-mile (11 km) wide asteroid that is expected to collide with Earth and cause a mass extinction.
A team of astronauts is sent to land on the space rock and drill nuclear bombs deep beneath its surface, but instead of deflecting the asteroid, they simply split it in two when it explodes.
The small fragment collides with Earth, creating a megatsunami that destroys much of the east coast of the United States and also hits Europe and Africa, before the spacecraft and its crew deploy atomic bombs. , crashed into the large relic and sacrificed himself. asteroid and blowing it into smaller pieces.
It is the latter technology that is similar to the real-life Dart mission, although it would not involve an atomic bomb.
One reason for this is that when the $325 million (£240 million) dart craft collides with Dimorphos, the plan is for it to change the motion of the ‘moonlet’ by a fraction of a percent, not destroy it.
Although the 525-foot-wide space rock poses no threat to Earth, NASA wants to measure the asteroid’s altered orbit due to the collision.
This demonstration of ‘protecting the planets’ will inform future missions that may one day save Earth from a deadly asteroid impact.
‘It’s not going to destroy the asteroid. ‘It’s just going to give it a small jolt,’ said mission officer Nancy Chabot of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, which is managing the project.
He said Dimorphos completes an orbit around Didymos ‘like a clock’ every 11 hours and 55 minutes.
Dart’s target is a crash that will slow down Dimorphos and cause it to fall towards a larger asteroid 10 minutes away from its orbit.
The change in orbital period will be measured by telescopes on Earth. The minimum change for the mission to be considered successful is 73 seconds.
Dart technology could prove useful for changing the course of an asteroid years or decades ago with the potential for catastrophe on Earth, such as in the 1998 highest-grossing film, Armageddon.
Starring Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler, among others, the film stars NASA scientists as they discover they have a Texas-sized asteroid 18 days before it hits Earth.
Then they plan to build a Deep Core Oiler Driller (Willis) Train a group of asteroids to poke holes in the space rock so they can detonate a nuclear bomb to split the asteroid…
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