Nasa’s quest to collide a spacecraft with an asteroid has begun. The mission is a practice run in case humanity ever has to stop a massive space asteroid from destroying life on Earth. The DART mission (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) is a true proof-of-concept mission that launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California atop a SpaceX rocket.
Dimorphos, a “moonlet” measuring 525 feet (160 metres, or two Statues of Liberty) in diameter, orbits the Sun with Didymos, a considerably larger asteroid measuring 2,500 feet (780 metres) in diameter.
The pair of objects will collide in the fall of 2022. Then they will be 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometres) from Earth, the closest they will ever get.
The Dart mission of Nasa intends to see how difficult it would be to prevent a large space asteroid from colliding with Earth.
To see how much the spacecraft’s speed and path may be adjust, it will collide with an object called Dimorphos.
If a sliver of cosmic debris measuring a few hundred metres collides with our globe, it may devastate entire continents.
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Though this specific asteroid poses no threat, it is the first attempt to deflect an asteroid in order to learn how to safeguard Earth.
“Dart will merely change Dimorphos’ orbital period by a fraction of a second. And in the case that an asteroid is identified way ahead of schedule, that’s basically all that’s required”. Kelly Fast of Nasa’s planetary defence coordination office quoted.
Asteroids are the Solar System’s leftover construction blocks. A collision could occur if a space rock’s orbit around the Sun intersects that of Earth. It will cause the two objects to intersect at the same time.
Dart, a $325 million (£240 million) mission, will aim for a duo of asteroids orbiting each other. Didymos, the largest of the two objects, is roughly 780m across, while Dimorphos, its smaller partner, is around 160m across.
Dimorphos-sized objects have the potential to detonate with many times the energy of a standard nuclear bomb. It can destroy inhabited areas and killing tens of thousands of people. Asteroids having a diameter of 300 metres or more might destroy entire continents. However, while those larger than 1 kilometre would have global consequences.
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