NASA's DART mission will try deflecting near-Earth asteroid next month
Have you ever been scared of news of asteroids hurtling toward Earth? Well, things are about to change for good as NASA's 'Double Asteroid Redirection Test' or DART is set to deflect an asteroid on September 26. The spacecraft will attempt to deflect the binary Didymos asteroid system. The success of DART's one-way trip will be crucial in shaping NASA's larger planetary defense system.
- One might wonder, why do we even need a planetary defense system? Earth has been in existence for over 4.5 billion years. In that time, many asteroids have crashed into our planet.
- Until now, we had no way but to hope that an incoming asteroid doesn't come our way. DART and the planetary defense system are expected to change things around for good.
DART spacecraft will attempt to deflect the binary, near-Earth asteroid Didymos and its moonlet Dimorphos. The probe will impact Dimorphos at a speed of 6.6km/s (23,760km/h). Dimorphos was chosen as DART's preliminary assignment because its speed around Diydmos is relatively lower than the twins' speed around the sun. This will help determine DART's kinetic impact more effectively.
DART was launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in November 2021. It has been developed and operated by the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, under NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office's (PDCO) direction. The probe will, for the first time, demonstrate deflecting an asteroid using a 'kinetic impactor.' Kinetic impactor, in this case, means slamming the spacecraft into the asteroid.
The Didymos asteroid system does not pose any threat to Earth. If so, why was it chosen as DART's first target? The fact that it's not headed toward Earth makes it a perfect testing ground. It will help us determine whether intentionally crashing a 500kg spacecraft is a viable method to alter the course of an asteroid that pose threat to us or not.