Space rocks and their probable collision with Earth continue to scare space scientists. But NASA’s latest mission aims at bringing an end to the possibility of such a catastrophic end of life on Earth. A robotic spacecraft made by the US-based space agency has been programmed to ram itself to a distant asteroid at a speed of 14,000 miles per hour to defend the plant from any such hazardous rock.
What has DART been programmed to do in the outer space
The spacecraft has been named DART named after the small arrow targeted to hurt another object or a board in dart games. It will first spot an asteroid (dimorphous for its test case) that’s about the size of a football stadium. If everything goes as planned, it will crash into the space rock and knock it off its path. The collision will happen about an hour after it’s spotted and nearly 7 million miles from the Earth.
Although Dimorphos doesn’t pose a threat to Earth, the mission is the first of its kind in space, and it’s part of NASA’s planetary defense program.
Despite the large asteroids that scientists have identified that could threaten Earth, none of these are actually threatening. Instead, they’re worried about the thousands of smaller space rocks that could hit the planet in the future. The mission, which was built by Johns Hopkins University, was launched in November 2021.
The spacecraft will hit the asteroid at a speed of 25,500 kilometers per second. This will cause it to change its orbital speed by about a fraction of a percent. This will allow the impact to alter the asteroid’s orbital period.
High-resolution cameras will follow the DART to take pictures of the collision with the asteroids. As the spacecraft approaches the target, the camera will take measurements of the asteroid.
One of the cameras will also be used to observe the impact. This will allow scientists to analyze the data and confirm the experiment’s success. Its pictures snapped from the safe distance of 50km, will be beamed back to Earth over the coming days.
Everything about DART, the spacecraft designed for collision
DART (The Double Asteroid Redirection Test) is NASA’s first mission dedicated to testing a method of deflecting space rocks. It is aiming for a binary system composed of Dimorphos and Didymos, which means “twin” in Greek.
The mission is to answer NASA’s protocol if an asteroid were headed toward Earth.