NASA has approved a mission to throw an asteroid off course in three years’ time.
The Earth would be in deep trouble if an asteroid was to suddenly heads in Earth’s direction. To combat this, NASA will test a project called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) on the Didymos asteroid.
DART will be powered by a solar-electric propulsion system and collide with the 150m tall rock. It will hit the asteroid at 6km per second, changing its orbital velocity and sending it off course. This could be some good practice for avoiding Armageddon, if any object from space posed a threat to wipe us out.
The European Space Agency will be working with NASA on the DART project to collect data about the asteroid, including its gravitational field and structure of the rock.
According to Futurism, the asteroid which caused the extinction of the dinosaurs was 11-12km (7-8 miles) wide. To wipe out life on our planet, the asteroid would have to be about 96km (60 miles) wide. While there are no giant rocks of that size in our vicinity yet, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
This is NASA’s prediction as to what the probe’s impact will be like:
Planetary defence officer at NASA, Lindley Johnson, said in a statement:
DART would be NASA’s first mission to demonstrate what’s known as the kinetic impactor technique — striking the asteroid to shift its orbit — to defend against a potential future asteroid impact.
The DART investigation co-lead, Andy Cheng said that DART was perfect for ‘protecting our planet’:
Since we don’t know that much about their internal structure or composition, we need to perform this experiment on a real asteroid. With DART, we can show how to protect Earth from an asteroid strike with a kinetic impactor by knocking the hazardous object into a different flight path that would not threaten the planet.
While we don’t know how or when the world is going to end, this mission could help make us ready for any threats in the future. Now let’s go smash some asteroids!
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