NASA Successfully Deflects An Asteroid

NASA Successfully Reversed An Asteroid
NASA Successfully Reverses An Asteroid - An artist rendering of the DART spacecraft approaching Dimorphos with the larger Didymos in the background. (Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory)

NASA successfully guided an asteroid into space by crashing it into space. The experiment will teach scientists how asteroid collisions can be avoided.
As part of the first test of a planetary defense system for Earth, NASA deliberately crashed a spacecraft into an asteroid.
In humanity's first effort to alter an asteroid's trajectory, NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft collided with the asteroid Dimorphos on Monday, September 26 at 19:14 PM. According to NASA, this collision will serve as a prime example of how humans could one day push a dangerous asteroid away from a catastrophic collision course with our planet.

The DART vehicle was a cube-shaped probe weighing 1,210 pounds (550 kilograms), with sensors, an antenna, an ion thruster, and two 28-foot-long (8.5-meter) solar arrays. While traveling at about 13,420 mph (21,160 km/h), the 525 feet (160 m) wide asteroid slammed into Dimorphos and instantly disintegrated.

“Now that we've made an impact, science begins. The effectiveness of our efforts will now be evaluated.” Lori Glaze, Director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, said in a live broadcast of the event.

Its orbit around Dimorphos' larger partner, the 1.280-foot-wide (390-metre) asteroid Didymos, would be slowed by the probe. For NASA to declare the mission a success, Dimorphos' 12-hour orbit needs to slow down by 73 seconds; but the real difference can be up to 10 minutes. There is no danger to Earth from either asteroid. Nancy Chabot, coordinating leader of the DART mission, said during the live broadcast of the event that the success of the mission will be determined by the data that will continue to flow for weeks.

Launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, DART traveled 10 million miles (7 million kilometers) in 11 months to reach the twin asteroids.

DART's onboard Didymos Asteroid Camera for Reconnaissance and Optical Navigation (DRACO), which automatically steers the spacecraft towards a collision course with the distant asteroid, captured the mission's final moments. According to NASA scientists, Dimorphos wasn't even detected by DART's DRACO camera system until just an hour before impact, at which point it was reduced to a single pixel in the camera's field of view. The asteroid reached a size of just 42 pixels three minutes before impact. The rocks in the shadows grew larger as the ship approached Dimorphos, and then the image disappeared.

Just before DART made contact, the spacecraft's camera captured the final images of its target, which can be viewed on NASA's YouTube page.

LICIACube, a smaller "cubesat" spacecraft that left DART on September 11, will provide scientists with a clearer view of the early stages of the collision. LICIACube is operated by the Italian space agency. Located 34 miles (55 km) in orbit of the collision site, the LICIACube sent images of the collision and the resulting cloud of material to Earth, deflecting the collision. Telescopes were pointed at the asteroid from seven continents and watched how bright the rock became after the collision to measure the extent of changes in orbit.

Ground observatories, the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes, as well as NASA's Lucy spacecraft followed the crash. Their observations will assist researchers in determining the amount of force required to successfully eject an asteroid from Earth.

The European Space Agency's Hera mission, which will launch towards Didymos and Dimorphos in 330 to examine the long-term effects of the accident and evaluate the performance of the $2026 million mission, will follow up on these initial discoveries.

Although the effects will not be visible for several years, the designers of the mission already consider achieving this small goal a significant achievement.

Dimorphos is a small asteroid, according to the mission's program scientist Tom Statler at a press conference on September 19. “We've never seen it up close, so we have no idea what it looks like or how it's shaped. This is just one factor contributing to DART's technological challenges. It is very difficult to crash into an asteroid.”

As a result, close-up imaging of the spooky space rock was an incredible feat, according to NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy.

“I was ecstatic, especially when I watched the camera move and realized all the science we were about to learn,” Melroy said. “It's amazing how they look like a real object to us rather than just a beam of light.”

Source: LiveScience

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