NASA unveils plan to purposely crash $330 million spacecraft into asteroid
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NASA has revealed its plan to purposely crash a $330 million (AUD $485m or £285m) spacecraft into an asteroid to see if it can survive the impact.
In a few week's time, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test or DART will be the world’s first full scale test to see if the spacecraft can defend the Earth from a deadly asteroid or comet.
Yes, this sounds like something out of the Hollywood sci-fi film Don’t Look Up.
However, this time we don’t have the likes of Leo Dicaprio or J-Law attempting to save us. Instead, NASA will use one of the most powerful telescopes to analyse the impact that the 525-foot-wide asteroid known as ‘Dimorphos’ will have on DART.
On Sept. 26, @NASA’s #DARTMission will impact an asteroid, which poses no threat to Earth, as humanity’s first test for #PlanetaryDefense. 🌎— NASA Asteroid Watch (@AsteroidWatch) August 23, 2022
Learn more on how to join us for a multitude of events starting Sept. 12 as we countdown to DART impact: https://t.co/OhqJLa7LST pic.twitter.com/C6tXz8VD0K
While the asteroid (thankfully) is not hitting the Earth anytime soon, scientists say that if it were to hit the blue planet, it would cause significant damage.
According to USA TODAY planetary defence officer for NASA Lindley Johnson said: “We don't want to be in a situation where an asteroid is headed toward Earth and then have to be testing this kind of capability."
He added: “We want to know about both how the spacecraft works and what the reaction will be by the asteroid to the impact before we ever get in a situation like that.”
Astronomer with Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, and co-lead of the July observation campaign Nick Moskovitz said in a statement that now is the perfect time to execute the test to prevent the worst from unfolding.
“The before-and-after nature of this experiment requires exquisite knowledge of the asteroid system before we do anything to it,” he said
“We don’t want to, at the last minute, say, ‘Oh, here’s something we hadn’t thought about or phenomena we hadn’t considered.’ We want to be sure that any change we see is entirely due to what DART did.”
USA TODAY also reported that DART isn’t intended to destroy ‘Dimorphos’ but rather give it a slight ‘nudge’, which could affect its orbit around Didymos by about 1 per cent.
Although that may sound minor, according to the lead coordinator for DART Nancy Chabot, the results could save humankind.
She said: "You would just give this asteroid a small nudge, which would add up to a big change in its future position, and then the asteroid and Earth wouldn't be on the collision course.”
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