DART: What exactly is NASA’s planetary defense mission starting in a few days?

NASA is not just sending robots to Mars, it is not just building space telescopes. He also makes plans to keep our planet safe in the event of the discovery of an asteroid or comet in the course of a collision with Earth. A large part of these plans, of course, is the study of the sky for any potentially dangerous objects. But that’s not all: the planetary defense program also includes a mission called DART.

First of all: There is no asteroid in the course of a collision with Earth. We will not follow the path of the dinosaurs yet. The purpose of the DART mission is to prepare. What would we do if we found a dangerous space body heading towards us? And can we be sure that our plan will work?

NASA has no plans to blow up a dangerous asteroid like Bruce Willis at Armageddon. Instead, the idea behind the DART mission is to drop a spaceship on it, throwing it into a safer orbit. The spacecraft will be launched in November 2021 and will reach its target asteroid in 2022.

DART is part of the AIDA (Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment) mission, a joint venture between ESA, NASA, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the Azores Observatory (OCA) and the University of John’s Applied Physics Laboratory Hopkins (JHU / APL).

What is a DART mission?

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission is a test of NASA’s planetary defense plans. An asteroid or comet more than 140 meters in diameter approaching the Earth less than 5% of the Earth’s distance from the Sun is called a “potentially dangerous object” (PHO). Most of them will not be a danger to us – in fact, NASA says none of the known PHOs have a significant chance of hitting Earth in the next 100 years. However, he estimates that only 40% of these items are known.

So, in case we discover a PHO going straight to Earth, NASA has a plan: to use a spaceship to deflect the upcoming asteroid. DART is the first attempt to do just that, using a near-Earth binary asteroid called Gemini. In orbit around Gemini is a small moon called Dimorphos, which the spacecraft aims to launch in a different orbit.

Photo: NASA / Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab

It is safe;

Yes, DART sending is secure. Gemini, the target asteroid, is not a threat to Earth. When DART reaches it in 2022, it will be about 11 million kilometers away and the only goal is to move the Dimorphos moon to a different orbit around the asteroid.

The DART launch process starts on Wednesday 23 November (early morning Thursday 24 November). The spacecraft will be launched with a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and will reach its target between September 26 and October 1, 2022.

How will DART work?

NASA plans to use the technique of “kinetic impact” – that is, the spacecraft will collide with the asteroid to change its course. DART will maneuver using the built-in DRACO camera and autonomous navigation software. These will direct the spacecraft to collide with Dimorphos at a speed of about 6.6km / s, changing the speed of the moon by less than 1%. If all goes according to plan, however, the change in orbit will be large enough for Earth telescopes to observe.

Source:

www.sciencefocus.com/news/dart-mission-nasa


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