The POT is preparing the launch of a mission for starr deliberately a spaceship against an asteroid as part of a rehearsal to be “prepared” in case humanity needs one day to prevent a giant space rock from colliding with Earth.
It may sound like science fiction, but the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) it is a real experiment that will take off at 10:21 p.m. Pacific Time Tuesday (at 3 a.m. Wednesday in Argentina), aboard a SpaceX rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
Its target is Dimorphos, a “moon” about 160 meters wide, surrounding a much larger asteroid called Didymos. (780 meters in diameter). Together, they form a system that orbits the Sun.
The impact should occur in the autumn of 2022, when the pair of rocks are 11 million kilometers from Earth, the closest point they can get to.
“What we are trying to learn is how to deflect a threat“said NASA chief scientist Thomas Zuburchen of the $ 330 million project and the first of its kind.
Likewise, the specialists clarified that this experiment does not pose any threat to our planet. They even explained that there are asteroids that belong to a class of bodies known as Near Earth Objects and can get closer than 50 million kilometers.
The attention of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office is on bodies that are greater than 140 meters in size, since they have the potential to devastate cities or entire regions with an energy several times greater than that of normal nuclear bombs.
So far, 10,000 near-Earth asteroids with a size of 140 meters or more are knownBut none have a significant chance of impact in the next 100 years. However, it is estimated that only 40 percent of those bodies have been found to date.
Probe Dart (dart), which is a box the volume of a large refrigerator and limousine-sized solar panels on each side, It will crash into Dimorphos at just over 15,000 miles per hour, causing a small change in the asteroid’s motion.
Its orbit never intersects our planet, providing a safe way to measure the effect of the impact, which It is scheduled to occur between September 26 and October 1, 2022.
There is a certain uncertainty about the amount of energy that will be transferred on impact, since the internal composition and porosity of the small moon is unknown. The more debris generated, the more push Dimorphos will receive.
“Every time we go to an asteroid, we come across things we didn’t expect,” Rivkin said.
The DART spacecraft also contains sophisticated imaging and navigation instruments, including the Italian Space Agency’s CubeSat, which will observe the crash and its after-effects.
Didymos’s trajectory could also be slightly affected, but it would not significantly alter its course or endanger Earth, according to scientists.