December 9, 2021
NASA launches a test mission to strike an asteroid against future space threats |  Science

NASA launches a test mission to strike an asteroid against future space threats | Science

The DART mission, or binary asteroid redirection test mission (English translation), will be launched by the US space agency (NASA) This Wednesday (24). The goal is to test the human technological potential against an asteroid that may be on its way to Earth in the future.

The space agency’s probe, scheduled to depart at 2:21 a.m. from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, US, will begin a journey aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to a binary system: the target is the moon Demorphos, which orbits the asteroid Didymos. .

According to Thiago Signorini Gonçalves, Professor of Astronomy at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), the destination chosen is just a ‘matter of convenience’.

“It is an asteroid that is relatively close to Earth. Since the mission goal, in particular, is to test the possibility of effectively changing an asteroid’s orbit, it is important to be able to track a back-orbit. If an asteroid is very far away it will be difficult to do such follow-up.”

14 consecutive photos taken of Didymos and its moon, still in 2003. – Image: NASA

Thus, upon arrival at Demorphos, scheduled for 2022, the mission will monitor whether it is actually possible to successfully alter the asteroid’s path using the technology developed for DART.

There are two different types of bodies: the larger one, roughly the size of a 100-story building, and the smaller, 40-story body. According to Gonçalves, the size of Dimorphos is common even for asteroids in our solar system, but at the same time, It can make a mess if it’s already on its way to the ground.

“It’s a good opportunity to be able to track the impact of an object that would be an effective target for a mission if that was really necessary, if we had to deflect an asteroid,” he said.

Anyway, even if NASA experts couldn’t hit the asteroid system, There is no danger of collision with the ground. However, with the success of the mission, the Dimorphos crater must be created, which can generate For the first time, a meteorite was artificially created by man.

“The collision should result in a crater of about 10 meters in this second component of the binary system, on a smaller asteroid, and this material will be lifted. This will likely generate a new meteor shower that can be seen from Earth,” the astronomer explained.