NASA’s strategy for the eventuality that a catastrophic asteroid threatens humanity was successful when a spacecraft slammed into an asteroid on Monday.
The estimated 11 billion pound, 520-foot long asteroid Dimorphos was struck by the 1,260-pound Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft at a speed of 14,000 miles per hour, about 7 million miles from Earth. About 55 feet from the asteroid’s centre, the spacecraft made contact.
Over a week prior, the spacecraft had launched LICIACube, a shoebox-sized partner, along with its camera to picture the mission. These images proved the impact.
After the collision, Nancy Chabot, planetary scientist and mission team leader at Johns Hopkins University, said: “This was a really hard technology demonstration to hit a little asteroid we’ve never seen, and do it in such dramatic fashion.”
The successful mission marks the end of a $325 million, 10-month odyssey for DART. The asteroid and the one it orbits, Didymos, were picked since neither one poses a threat to Earth.
According to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, “there was a lot of invention and creativity that went into this mission, and I believe it’s going to teach us how to safeguard our own planet from an impending asteroid in the future.” We are demonstrating that planetary defence is an international effort and that saving the world is highly likely.
The DART team reported that no modifications to the mission were required and that it performed “straight down the middle of what our objectives were.”
Although DART successfully impacted Dimorphos, NASA won’t be aware of the collision’s ramifications for weeks or even months.
Elena Adams, a mission systems engineer, told reporters after the hit that “certain stuff will probably come out in even days, maybe weeks.” However, “I would guess a couple of months for the quantitative full answer.”
Instead of destroying the asteroid, the CIA wanted to adjust its orbit so that it passed closer to Didymos and altered both of their courses. Dimorphos’ orbit around Didymos takes 11 hours and 55 minutes to complete; NASA anticipates that the collision will cut that time in half.
However, NASA claims that altering an asteroid’s orbit by just 1% would be sufficient if one that is dangerous is headed for Earth. According to NASA, there are currently close to 30,000 near-Earth objects in our solar system, which means they are 120.8 million miles away from Earth. There are almost 10,000 near-Earth objects that are roughly Dimorphos’ size.
Given adequate time, planetary security specialists recommend moving a potentially dangerous asteroid or comet out of the path rather than blowing it up and creating several bits that could fall on Earth. For large space rocks, many impactors could be required, or even a combination of impactors and hypothetical “gravity tractors,” which would use their own gravity to drag an asteroid into a safer orbit.
According to NASA, just 40% of those asteroids have been found as of October 2021, despite the fact that no asteroids of that size are predicted to strike Earth in the next 100 years. Less than 1% of the millions of smaller asteroids that could cause major damage are known.
But for now, according to astronomers, people should feel secure.
Adams declared, “Our first planetary defence test was a success. “Earthlings ought to get more rest.”