What if an asteroid flies directly to Earth at some point in the future? A collision with a large body could spell the end of life on the planet. The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is trying to find a solution and now plans to send one on behalf of DART into space. The ship weighs around 550 kilograms and is roughly the size of a vending machine. However, according to scientists, it should be able to change the direction of the asteroid’s flight.
For the next 100 years, Earth should not find any major asteroids that could negatively impact life on the planet. How But POT It says that it does not mean that humanity is safe, but it can also mean that we do not know all the asteroids. Therefore, as part of the planetary protection program, he decided to test how such a conflict could be avoided.
For their test, the scientists chose the binary planet Didymos, which does not endanger the Earth, but according to Tom Statler, who is involved in the mission, it is a “perfect natural laboratory”. It consists of a pair of asteroids, the smaller of which orbits the larger, just like the moon orbits the Earth.
The smallest of the units, marked with the letter B, measures about 160 meters in diameter and will be the objective of our mission, he writes on their NASA website.
The DART is scheduled to arrive in September or October of next year. It will first launch a camera on its surface, which will document the entire maneuver. Then it hits the asteroid at 6.6 kilometers per second. This will destroy the spacecraft, but the impact should be able to change the trajectory of the asteroid, which is now in orbit.
“By hitting a larger asteroid with a smaller spacecraft, the asteroid is not destroyed, but we deflect it. We push it and change the future trajectory of the asteroid a bit.” explain in the video planetologist Nancy Chabot. Now the smallest unit will orbit the largest in 11.9 hours. After a collision, your speed should change by a fraction of a percentage and therefore your driving time in a few minutes.
Animation: This is what the asteroid deflection should look like
Animation: this should look like the deviation of the asteroid’s orbit Video: NASA
“The fact that Didymos B orbits Didyma A is important to facilitate the measurement of the results. At the same time, it will ensure that the experiment does not change the orbit of the pair around the Sun,” Statler told the technology blog. Engadget.
DART will launch a SpaceX Falcon into space on Wednesday after seven o’clock CET. NASA will begin the live broadcast, you can see it on YouTube.
The DART spacecraft is preparing to take off. NASA will try to deflect the asteroid with it. | Photo: Credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Ed Whitman
Scientists will find out shortly after impact if the mission will be successful and will actually adjust the asteroid’s path. The mission will provide you with additional information. European Space Agency (ESA) called Hera. Its launch is scheduled for October 2024 and should reach the asteroids in late 2026 or early 2027.
Hera uses radar to examine the cores of asteroids and also to analyze their chemical composition. At the same time, it will focus on the crater left by DART.
“There are many craters on the Moon or several asteroids. But in this case we will be able to study a crater in which we will know exactly the properties of the object that collided with it. This will help us a lot to understand the behavior of the craters, “he says. Space.com Michael Kueppers, who is involved in the ESA mission.
A new relationship between humanity and the universe
Although humans have already landed on the moon and sent probes to various planets and to Earth’s orbit, they have never affected the mechanisms of the solar system. This mission will be the first to do it and will change the relationship between humanity and the universe, writes the server. Space.com. However, according to experts who contacted the website, this can raise several ethical issues.
Specifically, the mission that will bring about this change was more or less decided by the American NASA itself, and states that do not have their own space programs could not comment on the planning. Furthermore, the Office did not sufficiently inform the public of its intentions.
“Most of the American and world public do not know the mission. Nobody approached people and said: ‘People and the world, what do you think of this idea?’ ”, Explains Natalie Treviña, who focuses on space.
Another common complaint is the effects that doing so can have on the universe. “Everything is going step by step. Nothing can happen in this attempt, but it is the first step towards the next,” said Valerie Olson, an anthropologist who researches planetary defense. “As humanity, do we have the right to make massive changes to the solar system? And what precedent does it set?” Treviñ asks, who compares these actions to building a dam – although it may benefit people, there are also disadvantages, for example for the environment.
Space geographer Ellie Armstrong notes that NASA speaks of a possible collision between Earth and an asteroid as the greatest future danger to the planet. It ignores the extinction of species and climate change, to which the Earth is already exposed. He also adds that if the collision were to occur hypothetically, the asteroid alone would not be behind the deaths of as many people and animals as the change in the atmosphere that the collision would cause.
“I wonder what it says about the United States, NASA and what problems they want to show that it solves,” he said. “They literally move the asteroid, but they don’t make similar technological innovations to solve very real problems.”
Video: Asteroids can wipe us off the map. We deflect them with super powerful lasers, says Schmidt
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