NASA launches this fourth (24) planetary defense mission against asteroids

A SpaceX rocket is expected to be launched from California early this Wednesday (24), when NASA tries to demonstrate a system Planetary Defense System, designed to deflect an asteroid from a potential fateful collision with Earth.

The Dart Mission (Double Asteroid Redirection) will test NASA’s ability to alter the trajectory of an asteroid with kinetic force by colliding with a high-speed robotic spacecraft, deflecting the space boulder enough to keep it on course far from our planet. .

The Dart’s target is a fraction the size of the cataclysmic asteroid Chicxulub that crashed into the Earth about 66 millions of years, killing most of the animal species on the planet. It is not on a route that colliding with Earth in the foreseeable future will.

But scientists say that smaller asteroids are much more common and pose a much greater theoretical threat to Earth in short deadline.

NASA has hired SpaceX, from Elon Musk, to launch the Dart aboard a Falcon 9 rocket this Wednesday at 3:00 am11 (Brasilia time), from the Forca Area Vandenberg Base on the coast of California, about 157 km northwest from Los Angeles.

If takeoff is delayed, NASA will have a window of84 days to try again.

After being launched into space, Dart will travel for ten months to its destination, about

millions of kilometers from Earth.

Your target is an asteroid “moonlet” (small moon) the size from a football stadium, which orbits a much larger rock about five times in a binary asteroid system called Didymos, Greek word which means “twins”.

The moon, called Dimorphos, is one of the smallest astronomical objects to be given a permanent name. But with 84 meters in diameter its typical size among the known asteroid debris left over from the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

Simpler than Armageddon

Scientists chose the Didymos system because its relative proximity to Earth and the dual asteroid configuration make it ideal for observing impact results. Do it well sooner and be prepared with the means to change its course, said NASA Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson in a press statement this month.

“We don’t want to be in a situation That’s an asteroid heading for Earth and then we need to test that kind of capability,” he said. dimension of the Dimorphos a 24. km per hour dev and enough.

The spacecraft Dart, a cube-shaped box with two rectangular solar panels, should meet the Didymos-Dimorphos duo at the end of September 2022.

Cameras mounted on the impactor and a mini-ship the size of a briefcase launched from the Dart about ten days before will record the collision.

Observations from Earth-based radars and telescopes will measure how much the small moon’s orbit changes around Didymos.

The Dart team hopes to shorten the orbital trajectory by some fence of ten minutes, but would consider at least 157 seconds a success.

The total cost of the Dart project is approximately US$ 157 million (BRL 1.8 billion), according to Lindley, much less than many of NASA’s most ambitious missions.

Translation by Luiz Roberto M. Gonalves.

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