In an extraordinary dress rehearsal for the day a deadly rock threatens Earth, a NASA spacecraft slammed into an asteroid at breakneck speed on Monday.
A harmless asteroid located 7 million miles away saw the galactic grand slam as the Dart spacecraft slammed into it at 14,000 mph. Scientists anticipated that the collision would modify the asteroid’s orbit, create a crater, and send streams of boulders and debris into space.
To capture the sight, telescopes on Earth and in space were pointed at the same location in the sky. Dart’s radio communication quickly stopped, making the hit instantly apparent, but it will take days or perhaps weeks to assess how much the asteroid’s path was altered.
The $325 million effort was the first attempt to move any natural object in space, be it an asteroid or else.
Dimorphos, a 525-foot asteroid, will be the target on Monday. Greek meaning “twin,” it is actually a moonlet of Didymos, a rapidly spinning, five times larger asteroid that hurled debris off to create the smaller partner.
They are the perfect candidates for the test to save the earth because they have been orbiting the sun for ages without endangering Earth.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), a vending machine-sized spacecraft that was launched in November, used novel navigational techniques created by the mission manager and spacecraft builder Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory.
Only an hour before impact, Dart’s on-board camera, a crucial component of this clever navigation system, saw Dimorphos.
Elena Adams, a Johns Hopkins mission systems engineer, yelled, “Woo hoo!” Dimorphos is being seen, which is amazing, wonderful.
Adams and other ground controllers in Laurel, Maryland watched with mounting enthusiasm as Dimorphos loomed larger and larger in the field of view alongside its bigger companion with an image coming back to Earth every second.
A little satellite trailed after a few minutes later to capture images of the collision. Two weeks ago, Dart unveiled the Italian Cubesat.
Scientists insisted that Dimorphos would not be broken by Dart. The asteroid weighed 11 billion pounds, whereas the spacecraft was just 1,260 pounds.
However, that ought to be sufficient to shorten its 11-hour, 55-minute orbit of Didymos.
The impact should reduce that time by ten minutes, but it will take many days to almost a month for telescopes to confirm the altered orbit. Scientists pointed out that the predicted orbital shift of 1% might not seem like much. However, they emphasized that over time, it would amount to a considerable change.
Given adequate time, planetary security specialists recommend moving a potentially dangerous asteroid or comet out of the path rather than blowing it up and creating several bits that could fall on Earth.
For large space rocks, many impactors could be required, or even a combination of impactors and hypothetical “gravity tractors,” which would use their own gravity to drag an asteroid into a safer orbit.
In reference to the mass extinction that occurred 66 million years ago and is thought to have been brought on by a significant asteroid impact, volcanic eruptions, or both, NASA’s senior climate adviser Katherine Calvin said, “The dinosaurs didn’t have a space program to help them know what was coming, but we do.”