A huge asteroid is heading towards Earth, and you immediately think of all those Doomsday movies where governments try to find a way and save the planet. Although NASA is keeping an eye on all Near Earth Objects and their trajectory, they must also work on a back-up plan just in case an asteroid does happen to come our way.
This is why they have designed a spacecraft called Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) which will not destroy asteroids, but it will redirect their path when the space rock is heading towards Earth.
Tests of the spacecraft might begin as early as next year when DART will try to move a “non-threatening” asteroid.
On their website, NASA described DART as being a “planetary defense-driven test of one of the technologies for preventing the Earth impact of a hazardous asteroid: the kinetic impactor. DART’s primary objective is to demonstrate a kinetic impact on a small asteroid.”
Hitting an Asteroid With a Speed “Nine Times Faster than a Bullet”
As for the asteroid that will be nudged from its trajectory is the “binary near-Earth asteroid (65803).”
The first mission will test DART, and it will send it to the binary asteroid also called Didymos A and B which will fly close to our planet between 2020 and 2024.
According to a statement, Dart will get close to the smaller asteroid which is almost 160m long and will hit it with a speed “nine times faster than a bullet, approximately 3.7 miles per second.”
The planetary defense officer at Nasa Headquarters (Washington), Lindley Johnson, stated:
“DART would be NASA’s first mission to demonstrate what’s known as the kinetic impactor technique – striking the asteroid to shift its orbit – to defend against a potential future asteroid impact. This approval step advances the project toward a historic test with a non-threatening small asteroid.”
The co-leader of the DART investigation, Andy Cheng of The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (Laurel, Maryland), explained that this project is a vital step in proving that we can protect Earth in case an asteroid will come crashing down:
“Since we don’t know that much about their internal structure or composition, we need to perform this experiment on a real asteroid. With DART, we can show how to protect Earth from an asteroid strike with a kinetic impactor by knocking the hazardous object into a different flight path that would not threaten the planet.”
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere