Although it may sound like a science fiction movie, the NASA has been preparing for months the first planetary defense techniques active to deal with the possible catastrophes that could be caused by the impact of an asteroid against the earth’s surface. With this objective in mind, the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission was born, which next month will impact the asteroide Dimorphos after a ten month journey.
It will presumably be monday september 26 when the first mission that will test the defense system against space threats will arrive at its destination. This has been confirmed by the US agency, which launched this ship last November thanks to a Space X Falcon 9 rocket.
Deflect asteroids: the objective of the DART mission
The DART mission’s main objective is to demonstrate the validity of the kinetic impact theorya method intended to be used to deflect asteroids from their orbit by crashing a ship into the space body.
To accomplish this goal, the NASA spacecraft had to travel more than 11 million kilometers to find the Dimorphos space rock, 70 meters in diameter, belonging to the binary system Didymos. This asteroid, which luckily orbits next to a rock 780 meters in diameter, will prove the success or failure of DART in September 2022, when the spacecraft finally crashes into him.
Though Dimorphos poses no danger to Earth, the destruction of this asteroid will allow NASA to test the effectiveness of this defense system. In this way, they will check if the impact can alter the trajectory of a hypothetical dangerous asteroid for our planet.
The space agency has explained that, if all goes as planned, the mission “will demonstrate that a spacecraft can autonomously navigate to a target asteroid and intentionally collide with it to change the asteroid’s motion in a way that can be measured.” using ground-based telescopes. In addition, it will provide data that will allow better preparation in the event of a possible impact with the Earth.