NASA has announced that it is designing its Double Asteroid Redirection Test to see where it can crash a satellite into an asteroid to avert disaster.
Remember the Bruce Willis action flick Armageddon, in which a veritable suicide squad gets sent to destroy an asteroid threatening to uppercut the Earth? NASA has announced that, with its Double Asteroid Redirection Test, it plans to launch a similar exercise in preparation for the real thing – just without Bruce Willis and with fewer explosions.
Whereas Armageddon saw oil drillers do the dirty deed of detonating an asteroid, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART for short) plans to launch a trial of a method for interstellar defense; firing a fridge-sized satellite at one part of a binary asteroid.
Didymos – the binary asteroid in question – is comprised of two rocky bodies that will pass the Earth in 2022 and once again in 2024. NASA plans to fire the sattelite at Didymos B (the smaller of the two at 160 meters in size) which orbits Didymos A (which is 780 meters in size).
The aim of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test is to cause Didymos B to change orbit, and measure that change with reference to the body’s orbit around Didymos A. The trial will show whether a larger scale test would have the potential to alter the trajectory of an asteroid – say, if it were, to be headed for Earth.
NASA has identified 93 percent of objects that could imminently threaten global impact, and should the Double Asteroid Redirection Test succeed, we’ll be one step closer to sending space rocks back to wherever they came from.
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