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Space & Astronomy

NASA to launch asteroid deflection mission

By T.K. Randall
July 2, 2017 · Comment icon 8 comments

An artist's impression of what DART will look like. Image Credit: NASA / JHUAPL
For the first time ever, an asteroid deflection technique for planetary defense is set to be tested out.
Known as DART ( Double Asteroid Redirection Test ), the mission will demonstrate how a potentially deadly asteroid impact can be averted by striking the object with enough force to shift its trajectory away from the Earth - a method known as the kinetic impactor technique.

While still in the preliminary design phase, the goal of the mission will be to strike Didymos B - the smaller of two binary asteroids that will approach the Earth in 2022 and then again in 2024.

"A binary asteroid is the perfect natural laboratory for this test," said program scientist Tom Statler.

"The fact that Didymos B is in orbit around Didymos A makes it easier to see the results of the impact, and ensures that the experiment doesn't change the orbit of the pair around the sun."
At around the size of a fridge, DART would use its on-board autonomous targeting system to aim directly at Didymos B before striking it at a speed nine times faster than that of a bullet.

"DART is a critical step in demonstrating we can protect our planet from a future asteroid impact," said Andy Cheng of The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

"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."

Source: | Comments (8)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Grandpa Greenman 5 years ago
Good, it is about time.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Alaric 5 years ago
"...  striking it at a speed nine times faster than that of a bullet.".  I don't know if that's such a good idea. What if, instead of being deflected, it just breaks into a dozen pieces and keeps coming?
Comment icon #3 Posted by RoofGardener 5 years ago
Hmm... weeeell.... those 'dozen pieces' would - presumably - be more likely to harmlessly burn up on entering the earths atmosphere ? So it would still be a result !
Comment icon #4 Posted by paperdyer 5 years ago
Or instead of deflecting it, the impact changes the course to a collision one.
Comment icon #5 Posted by ChrLzs 5 years ago
I think the idea is that we don't use it unless it is on a collision course.  We are getting better at working that out.  And, as RG hinted, once you know it is extremely likely/definitely going to collide with us, pretty much *any* other course would be better...
Comment icon #6 Posted by taniwha 5 years ago
I think it will be a few million years before you get to see it in action. Don't get too bored waiting for that killer asteroid. With all that time, why not build a global force field around our planet instead?
Comment icon #7 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 5 years ago
You keep making this claim, so it's put up or shut up time. Let's see you answer some pertinent queating.  How many NEOS are there? How many of them are potentially a threat? How are their orbits perturbed over time by the gravitational effects of planets? Given the three body problem how do you intend to extrapolate for millions of years, given that over such long periods the motion of small bodies is essentially chaotic? Are you going to be honest enough to admit that you are making wild guesses about a subject you know nothing about? I look forward to your reply with baited breath, consider... [More]
Comment icon #8 Posted by taniwha 5 years ago
There is a next to zero threat of a killer asteroid, now or in the future, each day that passes is a day further away from that threat not closer to it, thanks due to the expanding universe which is not only creating for us more space but also more time.  Pick up a walnut,  try throwing it at the moon, what happens?

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