Well, this isn’t a sci-fi movie and pretty normal for geeks at NASA.
Deflection is the next best option in humanity’s inventory because putting an asteroid’s motion to a complete stop is impracticable with our present level of technology, and we’ve yet to develop a sci-fi energy barrier over the entire world. And deflection is precisely what DART aspires to do.
In essence, DART will utilize a technology known as “kinetic impactor” to send a spacecraft into the vastness of space with the goal of colliding with a target asteroid. NASA thinks that by doing so, potentially dangerous asteroids will be sent far enough off track that the Earth will no longer be in their path. That is, after all, the long-term aim. NASA must first ensure that their technology works in the near term, which is where the first genuine test comes in.
NASA has launched its DART satellite on November 24, at 1:21 a.m. Eastern Time, the event will begin. Didymos is the name of the asteroid that DART will be aiming for, and it has a main body that is 780 meters across? The smaller body, which is roughly 160 meters long, will be the demonstration’s focus.
DART will lift out from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. DART will journey toward its target once it has safely separated from its carrier rocket, with a projected arrival date of September 2022.
It’s important to note that Didymos is not now a threat to the Earth, according to NASA, which is why the organization wants to utilize it as a glorified test subject. DART’s collision with Didymos’ “moonlet” will modify the speed of its orbit around the main body by a “fraction of one percent,” according to NASA’s estimations. This translates to a shift in the “orbital period” of several minutes, which should be visible and measured by Earth-based telescopes.
The opportunity to watch Didymos’ younger sibling is crucial to the mission’s success. To evaluate if the moonlet has been effectively pushed off course, NASA will depend on visual clues such as how often the moonlet dims the light that ishes against Didymos.
It’ll be a while until the rest of us get our hands on that information, but it’s an exciting moment nevertheless, and we can’t wait to see if DART’s goal is successful. Let’s just hope the launch goes off without a hitch tonight.