NASA launches spacecraft to kick an asteroid off course - GulfToday

NASA launches spacecraft to kick an asteroid off course

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches with the DART spacecraft onboard from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

Gulf Today Report

The US space agency NASA has launched an unprecedented mission, by launching a spacecraft from California at a speed of 24,000 kilometers per hour, to collide with an asteroid, in a process aimed at distorting its path, and its counterparts may allow humanity to avoid any space objects colliding with Earth in the future.

The spacecraft named "DART", made up in this case from the initials of the phrase "Double Asteroid Redirection Test" (a double asteroid redirection experiment), and it took off from California on a Falcon 9 rocket.

"Asteroid Dimorphos, we're coming to you," NASA wrote in a tweet after the launch. "We have received our first signals from the Dart Mission, which will continue to open its solar arrays in the coming hours and prepare for its 10-month one-way journey to the asteroid," NASA added. Demorphos, a "small moon" about 160 meters wide, orbits a much larger asteroid called Didymos (762 meters in diameter), and together they orbit the Sun.

The collision is supposed to occur in the fall of 2022 when this duo is 11 million kilometers from Earth, the closest they can reach.

"What we're trying to learn is how to avoid any potential threat," said Thomas Zuborken, NASA's chief scientist, of the $330 million project, the first of its kind.

In fact, the two asteroids in question pose no threat to our planet. But they belong to a class of objects known as Near-Earth Objects that are about 30 million miles away.

The NASA Planetary Defense Coordination Office is particularly interested in asteroids larger than 140 meters in size and capable of settling cities or entire regions of the Earth, as their impact energy is several times greater than the energy of a nuclear bomb.

There are 10,000 asteroids classified as "Near-Earth Objects" with a size of 140 meters and more, but there is no chance that one of them will collide with Earth in the next 100 years.

But experts warn that there are still 15,000 additional similar objects waiting to be discovered. Planetary scientists can create miniature effects in labs and use the results to produce complex models of how an asteroid's path is deflected, but the levels are always lower than real-world tests.

Scientists say the Didymos-Demorphos system is an "ideal natural laboratory" because ground-based telescopes can be used to judge how long it takes the smaller moon to orbit the larger moon.

 Since the current rotation period is known, the change will reveal the impact of the impact scheduled to occur between September 26 and October 1, 2022. Also, given that the orbits of asteroids do not intersect at all with our planet, they are believed to be safer to test.

The DART spacecraft, a box the size of a large refrigerator with solar panels the size of a limousine on either side, will hit the asteroid at just over 24,140 kilometers per hour.

There is some uncertainty about how much energy will be transferred through the impact because the moon's internal composition and porosity are unknown.

"Every time we get close to an asteroid, we discover things we don't expect," said Andy Rifkin, a dart mission official.

The spacecraft also includes advanced navigation and imaging tools, including the Italian Space Agency's "Light Italien Cubesat" to image asteroids in order to watch the collision process and its after effects.

This method used in the DART mission is not the only way to divert an asteroid, but it is the only technology that is ready to work with current technology.

Another method that has been hypothesized is for a spacecraft to fly near the asteroid to send out a small gravitational force.

Asteroids about 10 kilometers wide, such as those that collided with Earth 66 million years ago and led to the extinction of most life on Earth, including the dinosaurs, collided with Earth approximately 100 to 200 million years ago.

Related articles