In an extraordinary dress rehearsal for the day a deadly rock threatens Earth, a NASA spacecraft slammed into an asteroid at breakneck speed on Monday.
A harmless asteroid located 7 million kilometres distant saw the cosmic grand slam as the Dart spacecraft slammed into it at 14,000 mph. Scientists anticipated that the collision would modify the asteroid’s orbit, create a crater, and send streams of boulders and debris into space.
In order to see the spectacle, telescopes on Earth and in space pointed at the same spot in the sky. Dart’s radio communication quickly stopped, making the hit instantly apparent, but it will take days or perhaps weeks to assess how much the asteroid’s route was altered.
The $325 million effort was the first attempt to move any natural object in space, be it an asteroid or else.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson tweeted earlier in the day, “No, this is not a movie storyline. He remarked in a taped video, “We’ve all seen it on movies like ‘Armageddon,’ but the stakes are huge in real life.
Dimorphos, a 525-foot asteroid, will be the target on Monday. Greek meaning “twin,” it is actually a moonlet of Didymos, a rapidly spinning, five times larger asteroid that hurled debris off to create the smaller companion.
They are the perfect candidates for the test to rescue the earth since they have been orbiting the sun for ages without endangering Earth.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), a vending machine-sized spacecraft that was launched in November, used novel navigational techniques created by the mission manager and spacecraft builder Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory.
Only an hour before impact, Dart’s on-board camera, a crucial component of this clever navigation system, saw Dimorphos.
Elena Adams, a Johns Hopkins mission systems engineer, yelled, “Woo hoo!” Dimorphos is being seen, which is amazing, wonderful.
Adams and other ground controllers in Laurel, Maryland watched with mounting enthusiasm as Dimorphos loomed larger and larger in the field of vision alongside its bigger companion with a picture coming back to Earth every second.
A little satellite trailed after a few minutes later to capture images of the collision. Two weeks ago, Dart unveiled the Italian Cubesat.
Scientists claimed that Dimorphos would not be broken by Dart. The asteroid weighed 11 billion pounds, whereas the spacecraft was just 1,260 pounds. However, that ought to be sufficient to shorten its 11-hour, 55-minute orbit around Didymos.
The collision should reduce that time by ten minutes, but it will take many days to almost a month for observatories to confirm the altered orbit. Scientists pointed out that the predicted orbital change of 1% might not seem like much. However, they emphasised that over time, it would amount to a considerable change.
Given adequate time, planetary security specialists recommend moving a potentially dangerous asteroid or comet out of the path rather than blowing it up and producing several bits that may fall on Earth. For large space rocks, many impactors could be required, or even a combination of impactors and hypothetical “gravity tractors,” which would use their own gravity to drag an asteroid into a safer orbit.
In reference to the mass extinction that occurred 66 million years ago and is thought to have been brought on by a significant asteroid impact, volcanic eruptions, or both, NASA’s senior climate adviser Katherine Calvin said, “The dinosaurs didn’t have a space programme to help them know what was coming, but we do.”