Where there is a fear of giant asteroid crashing into Earth and destroying it someday, NASA scientists are trying to fight that by creating a spacecraft that will slam into an asteroid and save humanity.
An upcoming NASA mission is being made as a planetary-defense mission to smash a probe into a distant asteroid at an astounding speed of 21,000km/h. If successful, the mission will produce as astonishing collision and save humanity from ultimate destruction.
Named as the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or better known as DART; an acronym that acknowledges the delicate aim needed to collide with an asteroid dubbed ‘Didymoon’ at an extraordinary speed.
The idea of this mission, as per DART team member Nancy Chabot, is that the spacecraft’s extreme velocity could cause a small change in the ‘killer asteroid’s’ direction, hence sending it off course years before the impact even takes place.
“To do something like this, we’d also need a really long warning time; the idea of a kinetic impactor is definitely not like [the movie] ‘Armageddon,’ where you go up at the last hour and you know, save the Earth,” Chabot.
“This is something that you would do five, 10, 15, 20 years in advance — gently nudge the asteroid so it just sails merrily on its way and doesn’t impact the Earth.”
For now, the team aims to launch the DART probe in June 2021 so that it smashes into an asteroid by October 2022. Many years later, a follow-up mission headed by the Italian space agency will study the damage and look for any change in the asteroid’s trajectory.
DART is not like the other space missions NASA has launched that involve gathering scientific data and learning more about the universe formation, but instead is a defense mission aimed to save our planet from mass destruction.
“That’s one of the big differences, is a lot of the science-driven missions seem to be focused on understanding the past of the solar system. Planetary defense is really about the present solar system and what are we going to do in the present,” said Chabot.