November 30, 2021

Beyond Going Long

Complete UK News World

NASA will divert the asteroid’s path in a “planetary defense” test.

Washington (AFP) – In the 1998 blockbuster Hollywood movie Armageddon, Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck compete to save Earth from being crushed by an asteroid.

While Earth is not under such an imminent threat, next year NASA will test a “planetary defense” spacecraft that collides with an asteroid about to collide at 15,000 mph (24,000 km/h).

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) aims to determine if this is an effective way to deflect an asteroid’s path if it threatens Earth in the future.

In a briefing to reporters Thursday, NASA provided details of the $330 million Dart mission.

“Although there are currently no known asteroids in orbit with Earth, we do know that there are a large number of near-Earth asteroids,” said Lindley Johnson, NASA’s planetary defense officer.

“The key to protecting the planets is finding them long enough from the risk of collision,” Johnson said. “We don’t want to be in a situation where the asteroid is heading to Earth and then we have to test that ability.”

The spacecraft Dart is scheduled to launch on the SpaceX Falcon 9 on November 23 at 10:20 p.m. PST from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

If the launch took place at or around that time, the asteroid impact, about 6.8 million miles from Earth, would occur between September 26 and October 1 of the following year.

The target asteroid Demorphos, which means “two shapes” in Greek, is about 525 feet in diameter and orbits a larger asteroid called Didymos, the Greek “twin.”

Johnson said that while none of the asteroids pose a threat to Earth, they are ideal candidates for testing due to their ability to be seen by ground-based telescopes.

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The images will also be collected by a miniature satellite with a camera provided by the Italian Space Agency, which will be launched by the DART spacecraft 10 days before the collision.

“small batch”

Demorphos will complete its orbit around Didymus “like an hour” every 11 hours and 55 minutes, said Nancy Chabot of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, which built the Dart spacecraft.

Chabot said the DART spacecraft, which weighed 1,210 pounds at the time of impact, would not “destroy” the asteroid.

“You’re going to be tickled a little,” she said. “It’s orbiting a large asteroid.”

“It’s only going to change by one percent in this orbital period, so by 11 hours and 55 minutes, which can be about 11 hours and 45 minutes,” Chabot said.

The test is designed to help scientists understand how much momentum would be required to deflect an asteroid if it ever headed toward Earth.

“Our goal is to go as far as possible to make the biggest deviation,” Chabot said.

The degree of deflection will depend somewhat on the composition of Demorphos, and scientists aren’t quite sure how porous the asteroid is.

Chabot said Diamorphos is the most common type of asteroid in the universe and is about 4.5 billion years old.

“It’s like regular chondrite meteorites,” she said. “It’s a fine-grained mixture of rocks and minerals.”

More than 27,000 asteroids have been classified near Earth, but none of them are currently threatening the planet, said NASA defense official Johnson.

An asteroid discovered in 1999, known as Bennu, 1,650 feet wide, will fly halfway to Earth’s moon in 2135, but its impact is considered highly unlikely.

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