NASA is about to launch a spacecraft with one easy mission: Smash into an asteroid at 15,000 mph.
The mission, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, leaves Earth early Wednesday to check whether or not slamming a spacecraft into an asteroid can nudge it into a distinct trajectory. Results from the check, if profitable, will come in useful if NASA and different house businesses ever have to deflect an asteroid to save lots of Earth and avert a catastrophic impression.
COMING UP: #DARTMission launch! 🚀
Our first check of #PlanetaryDefense is ready to carry off at 1:21am ET (06:21 UTC) to try to vary the movement of a non-threatening asteroid. Tune in at 12:30am ET (05:30 UTC) for reside protection: https://t.co/z1RgZwQkWS pic.twitter.com/qiOjrLLquM
— NASA (@NASA) November 24, 2021
When is the launch and the way can I watch it?
The DART spacecraft is scheduled to carry off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Wednesday at 1:20 am Eastern time from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
NASA plans to host a livestream of the launch on its YouTube channel beginning at 12:30 am Wednesday.
If dangerous climate across the Vandenberg launch website prompts a delay, the following alternative for liftoff can be about 24 hours later.
Why is NASA crashing into an asteroid?
NASA is crashing DART into an asteroid to check, for the primary time, a technique of planetary protection that might someday save a metropolis, or possibly the entire planet, from a catastrophic asteroid impression.
DART “is something of a replay of Bruce Willis’ movie, ‘Armageddon,’ although that was totally fictional,” Bill Nelson, NASA’s administrator, mentioned in an interview.
The @SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying the DART spacecraft is vertical on the launch pad at @SLDelta30 in California! Launch is scheduled for Nov. 24 at 1:21am ET (Nov. 23 at 10:21pm PT) #DARTMission #PlanetaryDefense More 📷: https://t.co/iU5MOJDHCI pic.twitter.com/Ik7YhHa0be
— NASA HQ PHOTO (@nasahqphoto) November 23, 2021
If all goes as deliberate with DART, NASA may have a confirmed weapon in its planetary protection arsenal. Should a distinct asteroid ever wind up on a collision course with Earth, the world’s house businesses would believe that an asteroid missile like DART would shoo the house rock away.
How will the mission work?
After launching to house, the spacecraft will make practically one full orbit across the solar earlier than it crosses paths with Dimorphos, a football-field-sized asteroid that intently orbits a much bigger asteroid, referred to as Didymos, each 11 hours and 55 minutes. Astronomers name these two asteroids a binary system, the place one is a mini-moon to the opposite. Together, the 2 asteroids make one full orbit across the solar each two years.
Infographic displaying the impact of DART’s impression on the orbit of Dimorphos.Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL
poses no risk to Earth, and the mission is basically goal follow. DART’s impression will occur in late September or early October subsequent 12 months, when the binary asteroids are at their closest level to Earth, roughly 6.8 million miles away.
Four hours earlier than impression, the DART spacecraft, formally referred to as a kinetic impactor, will autonomously steer itself straight towards Dimorphos for a head-on collision at 15,000 mph. An onboard digicam will seize and ship again pictures to Earth in actual time till 20 seconds earlier than impression. A tiny satellite tv for pc from the Italian Space Agency, deployed 10 days earlier than the impression, will come as shut as 34 miles from the asteroid to snap pictures each six seconds within the moments earlier than and after DART’s impression.
How will NASA know if DART succeeded?
Telescopes on Earth will repair their lenses on the crash website, displaying the 2 asteroids as tiny dots of mirrored daylight. To measure whether or not DART’s impression modified Dimorphos’ orbit round Didymos, astronomers will monitor the time between one flicker of sunshine — which signifies that Dimorphos has handed in entrance of Didymos — and one other, which signifies that Dimorphos has orbited behind Didymos.
If Dimorphos’ orbit round Didymos is prolonged by a minimum of 73 seconds, DART may have efficiently carried out its mission. But mission managers count on the impression to elongate the asteroid’s orbit much more, by about 10 and 20 minutes.
This article initially appeared in The New York Times.