NASA's Asteroid Deflection Dart Mission launches tonight

NASA's Asteroid Deflection Dart Mission launches tonight

One of the most exciting and unusual missions of NASA for years, the double asteroid redirection test (DART) must launch tonight on its way of hitting and scrolling millions of miles from the earth. You can watch it live here, although it's a bit of time before the big smash arrives.


          Dart is our first attempt as a kind of space to deliberately change the path of an asteroid in the opposite direction. Be assured, this one in particular is not dangerous for our precious planet, but this is a perfect test bed for the type of interception necessary to be necessary if such a danger appears.


        "The planetary defense has worked on the problem of, truly decades," said Thomas Zurbuchen, head of the NASA science mission management. "It's time to start meeting this tool - it's important for all our stakeholders. This has really been around the last five years that the program has increased its support. And the target has been around for at least five years before that - people were talking about how this is really perfect, we can consider its success in the field, there is no need for a second investigation. "


        The asteroid in question is actually the smallest of two in a binary configuration, traveling as a married couple through the solar system. The wider asteroid, didymos, is about half a mile wide - not quite a planet-killer, but you would not like it either in your neighborhood. And around the orbit our goal: Dimorphos, about 525 feet on the form of a peanut form, it is the size that the statue of freedom would be blocking.


         What Dart will go on there and, just when Dimorphos arrives on the other side of didymos, crush it as hard as possible - and it's quite difficult, considering that the spaceship will weigh about 1,210 pounds and its NEW ion The motor will have propelled it to the eye (if it had eyes, and there was air) speed of 4.1 miles per second. (These are 550 kilograms at 6.6 km / s for our metric friends; I leave it to the Boffins to calculate the approximate impact force.)


       Dimorphos will not explode and send fragments fly everywhere. Quite the opposite: the effect will be barely noticeable. But the impact will affect the period of its orbit around didymos, slow down and extend it to the point where a powerful telescope can perceive it. By observing this change, scientists should be able to tell the mass of the object and the way in which this refined technique to hit a thick thing with another thing was.


     Once they know that they can make an informed decision on what might be necessary if, for example, an asteroid twice as big was in fact on a collision course. By applying this strong force to this angle, at that time and distance (as far as possible, a member of the team told me), we can divert it enough so that it does not hit us. Dart will be based on this type of planetary defense work. Hope we will never need it, but we can all agree that it is better to be ready only to gather a group of Ragtag Ragtag from the petroleum platform to Nuke on the last minute. This is another reference "Armageddon" to keep our precious advanced age readership engaged.


        "What we would really like to do with this is, we need to know how to train an impactor according to the size of the threat to come. We want an impact model with a high degree of precision," Zurbuchen said. Such a mission may not be sufficient and there are still no plans for another impact mission, "I could easily imagine that a follow-up test in another type of asteroid could be on the books. "


       Of course, although the impact can be relatively small, it will always be cool. We send a partner space service, Licacube, which monitors nearby, providing both data and pleasant images of our attack on our attack on Space Mountain. There is chances that it will look like a breath of dust, gravel and solar panels, but you never know. This could be the asteroid with something that lives there. If this is the case, it will always be about 6.8 million kilometers, we will not be in immediate danger. In any case, it is difficult to imagine Gammer an asteroid with a spaceship and not get it at the camera.


      "It's a high-risk and high impact investigation," Zurbuchen said Cubesat company, who will have to be perfectly positioned and look closely at the time of impact. "We can be sure he worked without her, but ... I want to see this movie, man."


     The DART launch window, aboard its Spacex Falcon 9 vehicle, begins tonight around 22:20 Pacific and the weather in Vandenberg Space Force Base is looking for 90% favorable in the latest reports. Once it will be there, it will be almost a year before the spaceship becomes a destructive appointment with Dimorphos: the impact is estimated at the end of September 2022, although we will only know the Exact time Once the variables are locked.

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