In a move eerily reminiscent of the 1998 film “Armageddon”, NASA plans to launch a mission on November 23 to test a technique that could prevent an asteroid from crashing into Earth.
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The mission, called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, is being led for NASA by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, NBC News reported.
Simply put, the mission is designed to “hit an asteroid in the face with a spaceship at high speed,” Live Science reported.
Specifically, the mission is a test of NASA’s planetary defense system that could, theoretically, redirect a “dangerous asteroid” before it wipes out life on Earth using the kinetic impactor technique, or by pulling one or more large spacecraft into the path of an oncoming asteroid. in order to change the movement of the space rock, the media reported.
According to NBC News, DART will hitchhike aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to a near-Earth asteroid system called Didymos.
“This will confirm to us the viability of the kinetic impactor technique to hijack an asteroid orbit and determine that it remains a viable option, at least for the smaller asteroids, which pose the risk of damage. ‘most frequent impact,’ Lindley Johnson, NASA’s planetary defense officer, told Space.com earlier this year.
The system consists of a body nearly half a mile wide orbiting a moon about 525 feet wide, “which is more typical of the size of the asteroids that could pose the threat. more important to Earth, ”NASA said.
DART, aided by cameras and autonomous navigation systems, will crash into the moon at 4.1 miles per second, the agency said.
“The collision will change the speed of the moon in its orbit around the main body by a fraction of 1%, but it will change the moon’s orbital period by several minutes – enough to be observed and measured using telescopes on the planet. Earth, ”NASA said.
The launch is scheduled for Nov 23 at 10:20 p.m. PT from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, but the spacecraft will separate from the rocket and sail for about 10 months before there are plans to intercept Didymos in September 2022. , NBC News reported.
DART will also use solar panels to charge electric ion thrusters, demonstrating another emerging space propulsion technology, NASA said.
“By using electric propulsion, DART could benefit from significant flexibility in the mission schedule while demonstrating the next generation of ion engine technology, with applications to potential future NASA missions,” said NASA.
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