NASA kicked off a special mission to protect Earth by launching a spacecraft into an asteroid to accelerate its orbit in late November.
NASA’s Dual Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission was launched to determine if this is an effective way to deflect an asteroid that could potentially threaten Earth in the future. future or not.
“Although there is currently no known asteroid that has the potential to collide with Earth, we do,” said Lindley Johnson, NASA’s Planetary Defense Specialist at a press conference on November 4. know that there is always a large number of asteroids near the Earth”.
The spacecraft of the DART mission is scheduled to launch aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 10:20 p.m. Pacific time (November 23, 2020) from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, America.
If the launch took place around that time as planned, the impact of the NASA spacecraft on the target asteroid about 10.1 million kilometers from Earth would be in the period from September 26 to October 1, 2022.The target asteroid, called Dimorphos, is about 160 meters in diameter and orbits a larger asteroid called Didymos.
Neither asteroids pose a threat to Earth, Johnson said, but are ideal candidates for the test because they can be observed with ground-based telescopes.
In addition, images will also be collected by a satellite equipped with a miniature camera contributed by the Italian Space Agency, launched from the DART spacecraft about 10 days before the collision.
Nancy Chabot of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory – which built the DART spacecraft – said the asteroid Dimorphos completed an orbit around Didymos in a period of 11 hours and 55 minutes. Meanwhile, the DART spacecraft will weigh only 549kg so the impact will not have the ability to destroy the asteroid.
“It would be just a small nudge, deflecting the path of the small asteroid around the larger asteroid,” Chabot said.”The change is only about 1% in that orbital period, so the previous 11 hour 55 minute orbit could be as little as 11 hours 45 minutes,” she added.
The test is designed to help scientists understand how much momentum it takes to deflect an asteroid in the event that it one day head towards Earth. As a result, NASA aimed as close as possible to cause the greatest possible deflection.
The deviation also depends on the composition of the Dimorphos asteroid, and scientists are not entirely sure about the asteroid’s porosity.
Dimorphos, about 4.5 billion years old, is the most common type of asteroid in space, composed of a fine-grained mixture of rock and metal.
According to information from Mr. Lindley Johnson, there are more than 27,000 near-Earth asteroids that have been cataloged, but there are currently no potentially dangerous asteroids.
An asteroid discovered in 1999 called Bennu, 503m wide, will approach Earth at a distance of only half the Moon-Earth distance in 2135, but the probability of a collision is considered to be low. very small.