NASA launches spacecraft to test asteroid defense concept

LOS ANGELES (AP)-NASA launched a spacecraft on Tuesday night with a mission to hit an asteroid and test whether it is possible to knock accelerating space rocks out of orbit if someone threatens the Earth.

The DART spacecraft is the abbreviation of Double Asteroid Redirection Test. It was launched from the Vandenberg Space Force base in a $330 million project, and is equipped with SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets, echoing the Bruce Willis movie “The End of the World” .

If all goes well, the 1,200-pound (540 kg) boxy spacecraft will hit the 525-foot (160-meter) asteroid Dimorphos head-on at a speed of 15,000 mph (24,139 km/h) in September next year. .

“This will not destroy asteroids.” said Nancy Chabot, mission officer at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, who managed the project.

Dimorphos orbits a larger asteroid called Didymos. Both are not dangerous to the Earth, but provide scientists with a better way to measure the effectiveness of the collision than a single asteroid flying through space.

Dimorphos completes a lap of Didymos every 11 hours and 55 minutes. The goal of DART is to crash, slowing Dimorphos and bringing it closer to the larger asteroid, thereby reducing the 10-minute orbit.

The changes in the orbital period will be measured by telescopes on Earth. The smallest change for a task that is considered successful is 73 seconds.

DART technology can prove useful to change the course of an asteroid years or decades before it hits the earth, and it can cause disasters.

Chabot said that a small push “will cause a huge change in its future position, and then the asteroid and the Earth will not collide.”

Scientists are constantly searching for asteroids and mapping their routes to determine whether they can hit the Earth.

NASA Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson said: “Although no asteroid is known to collide with the Earth, we do know that there are a large number of near-Earth asteroids.” “The key to planetary defense is that they become an impact threat. Find them before.”

It takes 10 months for DART to reach the asteroid pair. The collision will occur approximately 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometers) from Earth.

Ten days ago, DART will release a small observation spacecraft provided by the Italian Space Agency, which will follow it.

DART will stream the video until it is destroyed on impact. After three minutes, the trailing spacecraft will take images of the impact site and ejected material.

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.



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