"Houston, we have a problem!"
NASA has set a launch date for a mission that will use a high-speed spacecraft to smash an asteroid in a head-on collision.
According to NASA, the mission, dubbed the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), is set to launch on Nov. 23 at 10:20 p.m. PST (7:20 p.m. EST) and could aid international space agencies in determining how to divert life threatening asteroids from impacting Earth.
DART will put to the test an asteroid defense strategy known as the kinetic impactor technique, which entails firing one or more sizable spaceships into the path of an approaching asteroid to alter its trajectory. Didymos is a binary asteroid (two space rocks moving in tandem) that consists of a larger asteroid with a diameter of about 2,600 feet (780 meters) and a smaller "moonlet" with a diameter of about 525 feet (160 meters).
NASA plans to shoot for the moonlet in the hopes that a direct hit will slow its orbit just enough for Earth-based telescopes to study the effects in depth.
"It will confirm for us what the viability of the kinetic impactor technique is for diverting an asteroid's orbit and determine that it remains a viable option, at least for smaller-sized asteroids, which are the most frequent impact hazard," Lindley Johnson, NASA's Planetary Defense Officer, told Space.com.
The DART spacecraft will launch from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base, riding aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket into space. According to NASA, once the DART craft separates from the launch vehicle, it will travel nearly 7 million miles (11 million kilometers) through space for about a year before colliding with Didymos in late September 2022.
If everything goes according to plan, the DART craft will strike the moonlet's surface at a speed of around 15,000 mph (24,000 km/h), completely completely destroying the spacecraft.
According to NASA, this high-speed collision will just hardly phase the asteroid, causing it to lose only a fraction of a percent of its velocity.
Still, that minor alteration should slow the moonlet's orbital period by several minutes, allowing astronomers to study the impact of the mission. A companion spacecraft operated by the Italian Space Agency, called the Light Italian CubeSat for Imagine Asteroids (LICIACube), will attempt to fly nearby and get an up-close look at the action.
NASA closely monitors all known near-Earth objects that could come within 1.3 astronomical units (1.3 times the distance between Earth and the sun) of our planet. So far, the agency has detected more than 8,000 near-Earth asteroids with a diameter greater than 460 feet (140 m) — or rocks large enough to wipe out an entire state if they were to land a direct hit on the U.S.
At the moment, none of these objects poses a direct threat to Earth in the next century says NASA officials.
Guest blogger AnThony Legins is host of 'How To Buy The Hood' now streaming on 4BiddenKnowledge TV. He also enjoys writing on topics relating to mindset, money, real estate, finance and motivation. Read more articles and posts by AnThony at: www.anthonylegins.com and follow on IG @anthony_legins
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