DART: NASA's mission to protect the Earth from asteroids

Imagine an asteroid coming towards Earth with the possibility of causing great damage, or even ending human existence.

Scenarios like this are still restricted to movie theater screens.

But there is fear that this may become a reality in the future.

In this sense, NASA, the American space agency, announced on Tuesday (5) that it will launch a spacecraft in the next month to purposely hit an asteroid and change its path, testing a “planetary defense” method for the first time.

The launch of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission will only occur 1h20 (2h20 Brasilia time), on 20 November, NASA reported.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base, about 20 km northwest of Santa Barbara, California.

Two asteroids that orbit the Sun and occasionally approach the Earth are NASA’s target. pose a threat to our planet, but their proximity makes them a preferred candidate for testing a technique that could someday prevent a “dangerous asteroid from hitting Earth.” rock out of space don’t send us back to the Stone Age,” says NASA scientist Thomas Statler on the agency’s podcast.

The larger of the two asteroids, Didymos, has

meters in diameter. Around it, orbits a smaller natural satellite, called Dimorphos.

Dimorphos, about 100 meters in diameter, “more typical of the size of the asteroids they might represent the most likely significant threat to Earth,” according to NASA.

This celestial body, according to Statler, “is not necessarily the asteroid that will have a devastating effect on Earth.”

Instead, the spacecraft launch is a “test to ensure we have the capabilities to stop this asteroid in the future, if there is one”.

The mission objective is to hit Dimorphos at one speed of almost 20 thousand km/h and changing its orbit “by a fraction of one percent” is a small change, but significant enough that scientists will be able to observe it. there from Earth telescopes.

“The collision will change the speed of the minimoon in its orbit around the main body by a fraction of one percent, but this will change the minimoon’s orbital period by several enough minutes to be observed and measured using telescopes on Earth”, says the agency on its website.

If NASA detects an asteroid that represents a risk to the Earth according to Statler, the agency does not work with this hypothesis at least for the next 100 years it would try to hit it and change course, instead of completely destroying it instead.

The DART spacecraft separates from the SpaceX rocket and sailing in space for over a year before hitting Dimorphos in late September 2022, when the asteroid pair are close enough to Earth 11 millions of kilometers so that scientists will be able to see them.

The interaction will be recorded by an Italian satellite launch of 14 kg of the spacecraft.

Although it is not intended to change the course of an asteroid that destroys the Earth, the mission has “historical purposes”, says Statler.

Ser ” It’s the first time humanity has really changed anything in space,” he adds.

“We left footprints and tread marks us and stuff like that. But this will be the first time that humanity has changed a celestial movement”, he concludes.

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