NASA’s forthcoming mission may look like a scene from a science fiction disaster film. The office declared Sunday that it’s sending spacecraft above the Earth to collide with an asteroid’s moonlet to change the body’s trajectory.
The mission, a Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), will be the first agency’s utilization of the kinetic impactor technique, in which a large, high-speed spacecraft is sent into an asteroid’s way to change its movement. NASA is set to direct the mission, what it calls “the first test for planetary defense,” on November 24, the day before Thanksgiving, to hit the binary near-Earth asteroid Didymos and its moonlet, Dimorphos.
The asteroid is around 780 meters across — around 2,559 feet, as indicated by NASA. Its moonlet is around 525 feet, which as indicated by NASA, is “more typical of the size of asteroids that could pose the most likely significant threat to Earth.”
The DART spacecraft will collide with the moonlet almost head-on at around 6.6 kilometers each second, a speed that is quicker than a bullet and sufficiently fast to change the speed of the moonlet by a fraction of 1%, NASA says. However it seems like a little change, this effect will change the orbital period of the moonlet by a few minutes.
DART will be launched on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, yet it won’t collide with the asteroid’s moon for an additional 10 months. NASA said that it will voyage in space until September 2022, when the Didymos system is within 11 million kilometers of Earth.
The mission is suggestive of the 1998 science fiction action film “Armageddon,” in which the space agency sends a team of civilians to land on an asteroid and explode it before it annihilates Earth. While the essential plan to the film is comparative, notwithstanding, NASA has said that neither Didymos nor Dimorphos represent a danger to Earth. This specific mission, the office says, is with the goal that researchers can work out how compelling DART missions can be.
The distance from Earth that the asteroid and its moonlet will be at the time of the collision is close enough that telescopes will actually want to see what occurs.