NASA’s DART Mission Completes Maneuver to Make Contact with an Asteroid

Many films have featured a brave group of astronauts on a trip that might mean the difference between life and death, with asteroids serving as their customary foe.

Some examples of these movies include Deep Impact and Armageddon. Moviegoers observe as the heroes blow a nuclear bomb to prevent the asteroid from crashing with Earth.

Contrary to common assumption, experts do not believe that a massive quantity of boulders traveling at a speed of 1,000 kilometers per hour or more could be totally shattered.

The solution, according to experts, is to simply steer a piece of space rock off course using a tiny spacecraft. This method is safer and gentler than other handling methods.

And this past week, NASA accomplished that when one of its spacecraft slammed an asteroid. Before the asteroid eventually destroyed the equipment, its photographs were captured and transmitted to the head office.

Dimorphos is an asteroid that was reached by NASA’s device.

The idea worked, the crew said, and it would only be a matter of months until they would know whether or not they had successfully diverted the asteroid from its course.

Elena Adams, the mission’s systems engineer, claimed that the individuals directly involved in the mission were overwhelmed with ecstasy and horror as soon as the craft eventually collided with Dimorphos.

The mission is a phase of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), initiated by NASA seven years ago.

To test humanity’s ability to defend the Earth against space debris headed for a collision with our planet, the $300 million initiative put the spacecraft into orbit in November of last year.

Before the team saw the desired outcomes, scientists predicted it would take two months.

The mission is successful if the asteroid is deflected off its route. If it proceeds in the same direction, though, NASA will need to come up with another technique.

“This really is about asteroid deflection, not disruption. This isn’t going to blow up the asteroid,” said DART’s coordination lead, Nancy Chabot.

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Changing the orbit of Dimorphos

With a distance of 7 million miles from Earth, Dimorphos is completely inhospitable to life. It’s more intriguing that Dimorphos, a 525 feet wide rock, is orbiting another asteroid, albeit a larger one.

According to NASA, DART won’t alter Earth significantly enough to put life at risk.

“There is no scenario in which one or the other body can become a threat to the Earth. It’s just not scientifically possible, just because of momentum conservation and other things,” Thomas Zurbuchen from the NASA science mission directorate stated.

DART’s objective is to change the amount of time it takes Dimorphos to complete an orbit around the larger asteroid.

According to statistics, the smaller asteroid turns once every 11 hours, 55 minutes. Dimorphos ought to now complete a full orbit every 11 hours, 45 minutes, assuming the DART mission is effective.

“The bottom line is, it’s a great thing. Someday, we are going to find an asteroid which has a high probability of hitting the Earth, and we are going to want to deflect it. When that happens, we should have, in advance, some experience knowing that this would work,” explained the Asteroid Institute executive director, Ed Lu.

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NASA should work more

Since they know how important their work is, DART experts at NASA put forth more effort to advance the research.

“We’re moving an asteroid. We are changing the motion of a natural celestial body in space. Humanity has never done that before. This is stuff of science fiction books and really corny episodes of Star Trek from when I was a kid, and now it’s real. And that’s kind of astonishing that we are actually doing that, and what that bodes for the future of what we can do,” stated a DART program scientist, Tom Statler.

“It’s something that we need to get done so that we know what’s out there and know what’s coming and have adequate time to prepare for it,” added Lindley Johnson, NASA’s Planetary Defense Officer.

Photo Credit: NASA

Source: NPR