NASA will collide with a $550 million spacecraft in an asteroid. Here’s why

Why does NASA collide with a spacecraft in an asteroid?
picture: note

Within eight days, NASA will deliberately crash a spacecraft into an asteroid in a $330 million (NZ$550 million) effort to alter the asteroid’s course.

It is the world’s first large-scale mission to test technology to defend Earth against potential asteroid collisions.

So what is the mission of DART? And should we be concerned about a NASA strike?

Why is NASA doing this?

Space engineers want to learn how asteroids are deflected if one is detected on a collision course with Earth.

The DART mission, or the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, will help determine whether a spacecraft deliberately colliding with an asteroid is an effective way to alter its course.

Cue references to disaster movies like do not search And the disasteralthough astronomers believe that such devastation is unlikely in the near future.

DART is the world’s first large-scale mission to test technology to defend Earth against potential asteroid collisions.

By studying the asteroid’s path after the collision, scientists believe they will better understand how collisions can be used to deflect Earth-bound asteroids and comets.

A banner hangs on the wall during the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) multimedia technology workshop, and a tour of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, on September 12, 2022, prior to the project's test mission on September 26.  The goal of the DART mission, which launched in November 2021, is to collide an asteroid with a spacecraft to slightly change its course.  (Photo by Jim Watson/AFP)

The DART target, Dimorphos, is 160 meters in diameter and orbits its mother, Didymos.
picture: Jim Watson

What is the name of the asteroid that will be hit by NASA?

The mission targets Demorphos, a “little moon” or asteroid that orbits a larger asteroid near Earth called Didymus.

NEOs are asteroids and comets that have orbits that place them within 50 million kilometers of Earth. NASA says detecting the threat from near-Earth objects that can cause significant harm is a primary focus.

Demorphos is about 160 meters in diameter and is the smallest thing NASA has ever attempted to hit.

The largest asteroid Didymos has a diameter of about 780 meters. The name is the Greek word meaning “twin,” which is a reference to how the asteroid formed a binary system with the smaller asteroid.

DART will be traveling at approximately 6 kilometers per second when it hits the Dimorphos.

When will Dart hit the asteroid?

Monday, September 26 at approximately 7.14 p.m. U.S. time is the expected time (i.e. approximately 11:14 a.m. Tuesday, September 27 NZT).

It was a 10-month journey for the spacecraft, which measures not its wingspan from solar panels, but is the size of a small car.

Does the asteroid pose any threat?

No, the asteroid poses no threat to Earth.

“This is humanity’s first-ever planetary defense test,” Bobby Brown, head of space exploration at the Johns Hopkins Laboratory of Applied Physics, said at a media briefing.

“Everything about this is a test. It’s done in a safe way. There’s a 0 percent chance that this asteroid will hit Earth, so it’s actually a perfect setup for our science team, the engineering team…and for those of us around the world to learn and make ourselves better than we are.” during this mission.

On the day of the collision, the images will return to Earth via images recorded by LICIACube, a small satellite provided by the Italian Space Agency.

The briefcase-sized satellite now travels behind the spacecraft to record the collision.

At the time of the collision, Didymus and Demorphos will be 11 million km from Earth.

What will happen after the collision?

The plan is to point the DART spacecraft directly at the small moon and crash into it hard enough to turn its orbital path around the larger asteroid.

After the collision, scientists will use ground-based telescopes to monitor whether, and how much, Demophos’ orbit has changed.

As for concerns about comets and the catastrophic impact on Earth, NASA says there are no known threats to our planet for at least the next 100 years.

The data collected will contribute to planetary defense strategies, particularly understanding what kind of force could change the orbit of a near-Earth object that could collide with our planet if detected.