NASA deliberately crashes expensive spacecraft into asteroids

Asteroids rushing to earth, which can only be stopped at the last second, are known from numerous Hollywood films. At the moment, however, the risk of such an impact seems to be low. NASA has identified a total of 27,000 asteroids near our planet. After all, around 10,000 of them are larger than 140 meters. However, proximity in space is always relative. The space experts are currently not assuming that one of these celestial bodies could really come dangerously close to earth. But at NASA one seems to think: Better safe than sorry. Therefore, a method is now being tested to be able to change the flight path of an asteroid in an emergency. To do this, a space probe is supposed to collide with the celestial body in a targeted manner, thereby changing its trajectory. In theory, such and similar approaches have already been calculated in detail. The test is now being carried out in practice: The DART space probe set off on its mission this morning.

Bild: NASA/JHUAPL/Steve Gribben – Public Domain

The collision should shorten the orbit

It will now be on the move for around ten months until it reaches the asteroid Dimorphos. This has a diameter of 160 meters and is connected to the even larger twin asteroid Didymos. The double asteroid is classified as potentially dangerous by NASA. Because from time to time he comes comparatively close to the earth. In November 2003, the distance was only six million kilometers. The celestial body does not pose an acute danger. So it is not an emergency operation, but a pure test. The DART space probe will then collide with the asteroid in such a way that its previously twelve-hour orbit is significantly shortened. Previous calculations assume that this will be between 73 seconds and ten minutes shorter after the collision. The experts assure that this does not increase the risk of an impact on the earth. The space probe also only has this one task. There is nothing else on board except a camera.

SpaceX also plays a role in the test

A second mission called “Hera” will follow in 2024. This should check on site what effects the targeted collision had. By then, at the latest, it will also be possible to say whether it is actually an effective means of preventing asteroid impacts on Earth. NASA is paying quite a bit for this knowledge. The entire DART mission will cost around $ 330 million. Part of it goes to the private space company SpaceX. Because the probe will be launched into space with a company’s Falcon 9 rocket. If the mission is successful, it could be money well spent. An impact of a large asteroid on Earth could result in much greater costs. NASA also uses the mission to conduct public relations. Shortly after the launch of the rocket, the space agency tweeted: “Asteroid Dimorphos: we’re coming for you!”

Via: The standard

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