Our planet’s defense system is ‘an asteroid hunter’ which consists of two search projects, one in Arizona and the other in Hawaii. For many years asteroids have passed by close to earth yet none have been close enough to be declared as a hazard. Although the possibility of an impact is low, it is better to be prepared than to be caught unaware. In this light, NASA provided the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (Dart).
Asteroid impacts have occurred throughout earth across history. According to geological evidence, the recent impact was caused by an asteroid about 10km across which hit earth 65 million years ago.
The DART system requires first discovery and calculation of impact risk. A team for the DART mission identifies asteroids and develops solutions for possible risks to earth.
As part of the DART mission, a spacecraft crashed into an asteroid on the 26th of September, 2022. This mission was performed to determine Earth’s chances of mitigating a possible future impact. The first of similar missions is to rearrange a celestial body's orbit.
Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART): Hitting an Asteroid Head On"/>
A spacecraft will fly about 140,000 miles per hour and slam into the asteroid, Dimorphos, which orbits a bigger asteroid, Didymos, 7 million miles away from earth. The impact would not be huge but rather a small change that proves the concept that celestial bodies can be redirected. Navigating the satellite from earth required high precision so the spacecraft was navigated by new technology, SmartNav which controlled the spacecraft without ground control. Also, LICIACube an Italian CubeSat was deployed to monitor the events and send images back to earth to analyze the effects of the impact on Dimorphos.
The change in orbit between the initial orbit and the orbit after the impact by DART would be monitored to determine how much the asteroid was affected. In October 2024, European Space Agency (ESA) will launch a mission to conduct a post-impact survey on Dimorphos.
The mission is necessary to identify threats and better prepare the world for celestial threats. As it is now, Dimorphos is not a threat to Earth. The DART mission was conducted only to prove the effectiveness of this defense method.
NB: An asteroid impact regardless of size would cause detrimental effects from changes in atmospheric conditions to extinction-level events.
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