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Monday, December 6, 2021

NASA launches spacecraft to validate asteroid defense concept

JOHN ANTCHAK

LOS ANGELES (AP) – On Tuesday night, NASA launched a spacecraft to crash into an asteroid and see if a flying space rock could be knocked off course if it threatened Earth.

The DART spacecraft, short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, launched from Vandenberg on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as part of a $ 330 million project with echoes of Bruce Willis’ film Armageddon.

If all goes well, the 1,200-pound square ship will crash into Dimorfos, an asteroid 525 feet in diameter, at 15,000 miles per hour next September.

“It won’t destroy the asteroid. It’ll just nudge him a little, ”said mission spokesman Nancy Chabot of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, which is leading the project.

Dimorphos orbits a much larger asteroid called Didymos. These vapors pose no threat to Earth, but offer scientists a better way to measure collision efficiency than a single asteroid flying through space.

Dimorphos makes one revolution around Didim every 11 hours 55 minutes. DART’s goal is a crash that will slow Dimorphos down and cause it to fall closer to the larger asteroid, reducing its orbit by 10 minutes.

The change in orbital period will be measured by telescopes on Earth. The minimum change for a mission to be considered successful is 73 seconds.

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The DART method can be useful for changing the course of an asteroid years or decades before it hits Earth, which could lead to disaster.

A small push “would have caused a big change in its future position, and then the asteroid and Earth would not go on a collision course,” Shabo said.

Scientists are constantly looking for asteroids and plotting their routes to determine if they can hit the planet.

“While there is currently no known asteroid to collide with Earth, we know there is a large population of near-Earth asteroids,” said Lindley Johnson, NASA’s planetary defense officer. “The key to planetary protection is to find them long before they become a threat of collision.”

It will take DART 10 months to reach a pair of asteroids. The collision will occur approximately 6.8 million miles from Earth.

Ten days earlier, DART will launch a tiny observation spacecraft provided by the Italian space agency that will follow.

DART will broadcast the video until it is destroyed on impact. Three minutes later, the accompanying vehicle will take pictures of the impact site and the ejected material.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
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