NASA mission intercepts asteroid in take a look at to defend Earth
- September 29, 2022
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This was NASA’s first attempt at interplanetary defense using a spacecraft, costing more than $330 million.
A probe of NASA forwarded to protect the planet Earth from the asteroid Didymos got a positive result this Monday, 26. Sent as a test, the probe managed to collide with the “moon” that orbits the asteroid (called Dymorphos) and, now, astrophysicists and scientists will analyze the impact to see if it was enough to change the orbit of the celestial body.
Didymos was in the sights of the space agency because, in the remote future, it could hit Earth and generate a series of environmental consequences. NASA reiterates, however, that the Dimorphos/Didymos system posed no real risks to the planet and the entire mission was a test to monitor the possibility of Earth’s interplanetary defense.
The test impact occurred more than 11 million kilometers from our planet. The asteroid alone is 780 meters wide and its “moon” – which, in this case, is a smaller asteroid that orbits the first – is 160 meters wide. The probe, in turn, weighs 610 kilograms and traveled at 24,000 kilometers per hour to reach the system.
What happens now?
The launch of the probe and all the calculations involved in the impact are part of the DART Mission (Binary Astroid Redirection Test Mission) from Nasa.
The DART mission, at this point, is just trying to change the asteroid’s orbit so that it passes far from our planet. More than U$ 330 million was invested in the program that, today, resulted in the probe’s impact with Dymorphos.
After the collision, the professionals involved in the DART Mission will analyze whether or not the collision was able to change the asteroid’s course. For now, the collision has created a giant crater and will hurl a million kilograms of dust and debris into space.
The “Deep Impact” of 2005
It is not the first time, however, that NASA has sent space probes to observe asteroids. In 2005, the space agency sent a probe to reach the comet tempel 1but with another purpose: the idea, at that time, was to understand what the comet was made of and not remove it from its orbit.
In the mission, the comet did indeed have its route altered as a side effect. Tempel 1’s orbit shifted by 10 meters and the impact generated 19 gigajoules of energy, equivalent to 4.8 tons of TNT, which created a crater 150 meters in diameter.
The DART Mission, on the other hand, has a different objective, so it can be considered the first attempt at interplanetary defense — when it goes from the inside of the planet to the outside. The function of the probe that hit the astreoid Dymorphos today was expected, in fact, to change the orbit to protect the planet Earth.