NASA spacecraft set to intentionally crash into an asteroid to help save Earth

NASA will use a spacecraft later this month to check a planetary-defense technique that would someday save Earth.

The Double Asteroid Redirect Test spacecraft, in any other case often known as DART, might be used as a battering ram to crash into an asteroid not removed from Earth on Sept. 26. The mission is a world collaboration to guard the globe from future asteroid impacts.


“While the asteroid poses no threat to Earth, this is the world’s first test of the kinetic impact technique, using a spacecraft to deflect an asteroid for planetary defense,” NASA stated Thursday.

In November 2021, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched with DART from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Now, 10 months later, DART will meet up with the asteroid by executing three trajectory correction maneuvers over the subsequent three weeks. Scientists say that every maneuver will scale back the margin of error for the spacecraft’s required trajectory to affect the asteroid often known as Dimorphos.

NASA says that after the ultimate maneuver on Sept. 25, roughly 24 hours earlier than affect, the navigation crew will know the place of Dimorphos inside 2 kilometers. From there, DART might be by itself to autonomously information itself to collision with the out-of-this-world house rock.

Getting a have a look at the asteroid

DART lately bought its first have a look at Didymos, the double-asteroid system that features its goal, Dimorphos.

An picture taken from 20 million miles away confirmed the Didymos system to be fairly faint. Still, as soon as a collection of pictures had been mixed, astronomers might pinpoint Dimorphos’ precise location.


“Seeing the DRACO images of Didymos for the first time, we can iron out the best settings for DRACO and fine-tune the software,” stated Julie Bellerose, the DART navigation lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “In September, we’ll refine where DART is aiming by getting a more precise determination of Didymos’ location.”

DART’s mission goal

If DART hits Dimorphos at 15,000 mph as deliberate, it’s going to take a look at the kinetic impactor Earth protection principle. 

“The point of a kinetic impactor is you ram your spacecraft into the asteroid you’re worried about, and then you change its orbit around the Sun by doing that,” Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory Planetary astronomer Andy Rivkin stated. 

DART will not change the orbit of Didymos. It goals to vary the pace of the moonlet, Dimorphos.  Ground-based telescopes and knowledge from the spacecraft will finally inform scientists if their plan labored.

Asteroids transfer across the solar at a pace of about 20 miles per second. Rivkin defined that if a kinetic impactor technique had been used to vary its orbit, engineers would solely wish to alter that by a tiny quantity, possibly an inch or two a second.

That’s why Didymos and its moonlet Dimorphos make an ideal apply goal. The tiny asteroid is orbiting Didymos and strikes a couple of foot per second which is far simpler to measure than 20 miles per second.

If this works, the concept is to use the identical method to bigger asteroids. Until this mission, scientists might solely simulate such an affect in a lab. DART will give them knowledge to assist solidify this protection plan.

Leave a Comment