NASA gets set to crash spacecraft into asteroid

08:51 15/09/2022

Andrea Riley is the program manager for the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART.

STORY: NASA wants to find out if it can push an asteroid away from Earth’s impact trajectory by crashing into it with a spacecraft.

Consider this the world’s first test of the world’s first planetary defense system.

“We are constantly looking in the skies for potential new asteroids and threats… so this test will help, you know, give us confidence that we have a mitigation strategy in place if a threat is ever found.”

The spacecraft was launched last November from California.

His target: a “moon” named Dimorphos the size of a football stadium.

The mission will test the spacecraft’s ability to change the trajectory of an asteroid with sheer kinetic force, crashing into it at high speed to knock the space boulder off course just enough to keep our planet – at least in theory – out of harm’s way.

Dimorphus poses no real threat to the Earth and is very small, especially compared to the asteroid that fell 66 million years ago and led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

But Nancy Chabot, head of DART coordination, says smaller ones are more common and theoretically more of a concern.

“…regional devastation can be the size of a city, a small state or a small country, and so it is very destructive – very rare, the threat is unknown – but that is why objects of this size are often the focus of attention. , and why Dimorphos is the perfect target for this first planetary defense test mission.”

According to systems engineer Elena Adams, cameras on the spacecraft and another smaller one nearby will capture all the action for a second and a half before impact.

“You really see it in real time. You see the impact.”

The big finale of the mission is scheduled for September 26th.

For DART mission engineer Michelle Chen, this can’t happen soon enough…

“We are so excited about this. He has two weeks left. So now my heart rate has increased a bit (laughs).”

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NASA’S VOYAGER 1 is on a fraught and unknowable journey into deep space. Some 14.6 billion miles from Earth, it and its sister craft, Voyager 2, are the furthest human-made objects from our planet, having made it beyond the edges of the Solar System and out into the interstellar medium.

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