Wednesday, August 17

NASA launches the DART spacecraft to crash it into an asteroid and prevent other asteroids from impacting the Earth in the future


Bruce Willis would be proud. In the famous’Armageddon‘the actor was leading a suicide mission to prevent a gigantic asteroid from hitting Earth. The objective: to detonate a nuclear bomb to smash it to pieces and thus save humanity. The plan, of course, it worked.

That science fiction movie was not as science fiction as we thought, and a few hours ago NASA has launched the DART spacecraft, which precisely has the mission of hit an asteroid at high speed to assess whether that impact changes the trajectory enough. The idea is to be able to use that experience to deflect asteroids that threaten our planet in the future.

Impact at 24,000 km / h

The mission has been preparing for years, and this morning it started with the launch of the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) spacecraft. thanks to a Falcon 9 rocket from SpaceX.

NASA director Bill Nelson himself acknowledged that DART “is something like a reproduction of the Bruce Willis movie ‘Armageddon’, although that was totally fictitious. “

The truth is that NASA is preparing for that scenario: if all goes according to plan, DART would become a demonstration that crashing a spacecraft with an asteroid could deflect it enough to prevent it from hitting Earth.

DART has the mission to impact with Dimorphos, an asteroid the size of a soccer field orbiting a somewhat larger asteroid called Didymos. There is no threat to our planet in them, and this is basically a “shooting test”.

Dart2

DART is expected to hit Dimorphos in September or early October next year. It will do it at about 24,000 km / h, and just before impacting several photos will be sent to Earth. A small satellite of the Italian Space Agency will also be in charge of taking photos of that collision.

According to NASA forecasts, this impact will cause the asteroid’s orbit to lengthen between 10 and 20 minutes, although the mission would already be a success if you only do it in 73 seconds.

Dart1

The DART mission is – if all goes well – a clear solution to prevent an asteroid from hitting Earth, but the scenario posed by ‘Armageddon’ in which nuclear devices would be used is not ruled out: There is an international agreement not to use nuclear bombs in space, but in an extreme situation the UN could disable the treaty and send a mission that would precisely make use of a nuclear explosion to try to minimize the threat.

Brent Barnee, a NASA aerospace engineer, explained that DART “has a good chance of getting the job done” if an asteroid gets close to Earth, “but if the asteroid is very large or the warning time is short, that’s where would transition from a kinetic impact to nuclear devices“.

Via | The New York Times

More information | NASA



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