Tech NewsNASA will launch a spacecraft into an asteroid to knock it off course tonight

DarylNovember 23, 2021

Our planet can be a lovely place sometimes, however, sooner or later, an enormous asteroid might just choose to put a premature end to our collective fun. Relative to the size of other astral bodies, it wouldn’t take much space rock to harm the world– even a 150-meter asteroid is big enough to present a “substantial hazard” to Earth. That’s why NASA has been working on DART: the Double Asteroid Redirection Test.

Since bringing an Asteroid’s momentum to a complete stop is unfeasible with our existing level of technology, and we’ve yet to construct a sci-fi energy shield around the whole world, deflection is the next best alternative in mankind’s arsenal. And deflection is exactly what DART wishes to achieve.

In essence, DART will utilize what NASA calls a “kinetic impactor” technique to send out a spacecraft into the great void, with the specific intent of attaining an collision with a target asteroid. NASA hopes this will knock potentially-threatening asteroids far enough off course that the Earth is no longer in their trajectory. That’s the long-lasting goal, anyway. In the short-term, NASA requires to make certain their technology works: that’s where its first proper test can be found in.

NASA will release its DART spacecraft during the wee hours of the early morning tomorrow or tonight if you’re a night owl like me. The occasion begins at 1:21 AM Eastern Time on November 24. The asteroid DART will go for is referred to as Didymos, with a primary body measuring a tremendous 780 meters throughout. The smaller body is around 160 meters and will be the target of the demonstration.

DART is releasing aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and will take off from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. It will take a trip toward its location with an expected arrival falling at some point in September 2022 as soon as DART has effectively parted methods with its carrier rocket.

We must be clear that, according to NASA, Didymos is not a risk to the Earth today, which is specifically why the organization wants to utilize it as a glorified test subject. If NASA’s estimations are proper, DART’s collision with the “moonlet” of Didymos will change the speed of its orbit around the main body by a “fraction of one percent.” That corresponds to an “orbital period” modification of several minutes, which should make it observable and measurable by telescopes on Earth.

The ability to observe Didymos’ little brother is critical to the success of the objective. NASA will count on visual cues, such as how frequently the moonlet dims the light that washes versus Didymos, to identify whether or not it has actually been effectively pushed off course.

It’ll be some time prior to us ordinary folk get our hands on that data, however this is an amazing time nonetheless and we can’t wait to see whether DART’s objective will be a success. Let’s just hope nothing fails with the launch tonight.

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