The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States has launched the first-ever mission to rehearse the salvation of Earth.
NASA will try to create a system of planetary protection against a potential collision with an asteroid, repeating the script of the Hollywood movie Armageddon. Instead of Bruce Willis, NASA launched the DART probe into orbit. It is the hero who will crash into the asteroid and push it out of orbit.
Here's what you need to know about the first mission to prevent Doomsday.
Why is DART important to saving the Earth?
The project was developed by NASA in conjunction with the European Space Agency as part of the Earth protection program.
Why is this important to NASA? The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission will demonstrate how to protect the planet from an asteroid collision and help develop technologies that may have further useful applications.
“We've read about asteroid damage ranging from dinosaurs to the Chelyabinsk meteorite hit in 2013. While the DART story may not be worthy of an asteroid movie, it's amazing to be involved from the start in protecting our planet,” said mission manager Clayton Kachele.
The possibility of a collision with a large celestial body can turn into a catastrophe for the Earth. Depending on the speed and size of the asteroid, it can destroy the planet, make it uninhabitable, or cause a wave of earthquakes, tsunamis. It is for this that NASA is rehearsing the first de-orbiting of a small asteroid by the DART probe.
In addition, NASA has established a Planetary Defense Coordination Office to manage the current mission. Objectives - To provide early detection of potentially hazardous targets, track and characterize targets, learn strategies and technologies to mitigate impacts, and play a leading role in planning the US government's response.
On Wednesday morning, a NASA impact probe was launched from a military cosmodrome in California. It was delivered to SpaceX orbit using a Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
The probe which costs $ 325 million, was launched from the launch vehicle, beginning its 10-month journey into space about 11 million kilometers from Earth.
The probe houses the Evolutionary Xenon Thrusted-Commercial (NEXT-C) engine, developed by the Glenn Research Center and Aerojet Rocketdyne aerospace company. The NEXT-C installation is a solar-powered ion engine (it will be collected by the solar probe panels), which is considered promising, and if it proves itself well, it may find application in the future. In this mission, it is not the main one and is placed on the hull to test the installation capabilities in the harsh conditions of space.
Moments later, the reusable lower stage of the rocket returned to Earth and landed aboard a landing craft in the Pacific Ocean.
DART will fly under NASA control, after which control of the vehicle will be transferred to an autonomous on-board navigation system.
In the fall of 2022, the probe should crash into the 160-meter near-Earth satellite of the asteroid Didymos, Dimorphos. So, in September next year, the asteroid pair should approach our planet at a distance of about 11 million km.
How the probe will hit the asteroid
At the end of the mission, NASA will test the craft's ability to change the trajectory of an asteroid using pure kinetic force. DART will crash into the asteroid Dimorph at high speed (24,000 km / h) to knock it off course just enough to save the planet.
Cameras mounted on a briefcase-sized mini-spacecraft, which will be fired from DART about 10 days before the completion of the mission, will record the moment of the collision and transmit it back to Earth. After the kinetic collision, a team of researchers will use telescopes on Earth to measure how much the impact changed the asteroid's motion in space.
The asteroid poses no real threat and is tiny compared to the asteroid Chicxulub, which crashed into Earth about 66 million years ago, leading to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Tiny, it's the size of a football stadium orbiting a larger asteroid called Didymos.
So far, no asteroid larger than 140 m has a significant chance of colliding with Earth within the next 100 years.