December 3, 2021

NASA launches spacecraft from Vandenberg on mission to smash into asteroid and redirect it

LOS ANGELES — NASA launched a spacecraft Tuesday night time on a mission to smash into an asteroid and take a look at whether or not it could be attainable to knock a dashing area rock astray if one have been to threaten Earth.

The DART spacecraft, brief for Double Asteroid Redirection Take a look at, lifted off from Vandenberg House Power Base atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in a $330 million mission with echoes of the Bruce Willis film “Armageddon.”

If all goes effectively, in September 2022 it will slam head-on into Dimorphos, an asteroid 525 toes (160 meters) throughout, at 15,000 mph (24,139 kph).

“This isn’t going to destroy the asteroid. It’s just going to give it a small nudge,” stated mission official Nancy Chabot of Johns Hopkins Utilized Physics Laboratory, which is managing the mission.

Dimorphos orbits a a lot bigger asteroid referred to as Didymos. The pair are not any hazard to Earth however supply scientists a manner to measure the effectiveness of the collision.

Dimorphos completes one orbit of Didymos each 11 hours, 55 minutes. DART’s objective is a crash that can sluggish Dimorphos down and trigger it to fall nearer towards the larger asteroid, shaving 10 minutes off its orbit.

The change within the orbital interval will probably be measured by telescopes on Earth. The minimal change for the mission to be thought-about successful is 73 seconds.

The DART approach may show helpful for altering the course of an asteroid years or a long time earlier than it bears down on Earth with the potential for disaster.

A small nudge “would add up to a big change in its future position, and then the asteroid and the Earth wouldn’t be on a collision course,” Chabot stated.

Scientists continuously seek for asteroids and plot their programs to decide whether or not they may hit the planet.

“Although there isn’t a currently known asteroid that’s on an impact course with the Earth, we do know that there is a large population of near-Earth asteroids out there,” stated Lindley Johnson, planetary protection officer at NASA. “The key to planetary defense is finding them well before they are an impact threat.”

DART will take 10 months to attain the asteroid pair. The collision will happen about 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometers) from Earth.

Ten days beforehand, DART will launch a tiny commentary spacecraft equipped by the Italian area company that can comply with it.

DART will stream video till it is destroyed on influence. Three minutes later, the trailing craft will make photos of the influence website and materials that’s ejected.