Unbelievable but true: NASA planned the deliberate impact of a $330 million spacecraft on an asteroid.
Of course, the project also has a reason: NASA wants to see if a spacecraft can change the asteroid’s path.
‘Preventing the worst’
On November 24, 2021, NASA’s DART (Dual Asteroid Redirection Test) probe launched as the first “planetary defense test mission” using a Falcon 9 rocket. DART is scheduled to impact the asteroid Demorphos on September 26, 2022, later this month.
The DART robotic spacecraft will travel at speeds of more than four miles per second when it hits the asteroid as planned. The goal of this kamikaze science mission is to see if the spacecraft can protect Earth from the asteroid Armageddon. “These effects are a natural process and will continue to occur. We want to avoid the worst,” explains Professor Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer at Queen’s University Belfast.
Real science fiction?
The whole thing reminds us of many science fiction scenarios, such as the apocalyptic series “Salvation” (2017-2018), in which the human race is faced with such a situation: an asteroid is hurtling towards Earth, and scientists and politicians are trying to prevent this from happening. Disaster and thus evaluate ideas for similar measures.
“Asteroid Test” Dimorphos
The spacecraft’s target is called Dimorphos and was chosen because it orbits a larger asteroid called Didymos. Scientists think it will be easier to find out the extent of the deflection because they have already carefully observed the orbit of the asteroid. Demorphos is 160 meters in diameter and orbits the parent asteroid every 12 hours. After the collision, its 12-hour orbit is expected to be up to 10 minutes shorter.
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