NASA has warned of potentially dangerous asteroids headed for Earth and plans to use its DART mission to avoid a collision. See how it works
NASA has reported several potentially dangerous asteroids coming close to Earth in recent months. Although they have caused us no harm, a small deviation in the orbits of these asteroids could lead to disaster on Earth. About 65 million years ago, when a giant asteroid hit the Earth, it resulted in the extinction of dinosaurs. Such dreaded events are not only limited to the past, they can also happen in the future and can wreak havoc on people. If an asteroid actually makes contact with our planet, it could pose a huge threat to the survival of humanity. The space research organization has already picked a massive asteroid on which to experiment its technology.
In efforts to divert these potentially dangerous asteroids from their current course and avoid collisions with Earth, NASA introduced the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission last November. Here’s everything you need to know about the NASA DART mission.
All about NASA’s DART mission
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission was launched just a month after a massive asteroid called 2021 sm-3 flew past Earth at breakneck speed on October 22, 2021, with a diameter of about 525 feet. The space object was even larger than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, and most terrifyingly, scientists were only able to detect the object a month before it passed Earth. If the orbit had changed slightly, it could have wreaked havoc on Earth. Therefore, the DART mission was launched to avoid a horrific collision. The mission will culminate this year when a 1,210-pound spacecraft collides with a small asteroid called Dimorphos in late September or early October 2022 at a speed of about 4 miles per second. The mission will hopefully see the orbit of space rocks around its bigger partner Didimos after the collision. Astronomers will measure the difference to see how efficient this kinetic impact approach to asteroid deflection is. And if the results are substantial, this can be used in the future when a rock forms the earth.
How does DART work?
The dart spacecraft has electric propulsion technology that uses a constant stream of charged ions to provide a mild push to get the spaceship going. It will circle Earth many times using its electronic motor to gradually build up the speed necessary to escape orbit, then begin the long journey to Dynamos, possibly passing another asteroid called 2001 cb21.
DART carries scientific equipment called Draco, and a high-resolution camera that serves as a navigation system. It will launch an Italian space agency built Cubesat to witness the impact five days before it arrives. The primary spacecraft will be too far from Earth for flight controllers to control in real time, so it will convert to an autonomous navigation mode four hours before impact.