The first ever successful planetary defense test. The NASA probe as part of the DART mission hit the asteroid Dimorphos as planned. This is the first ever attempt by humans to change the trajectory of the celestial body in case it threatened the Earth. “This is humanity’s great leap in the name of planetary defense,” said the US space agency official who was transmitting.
Probe NASA as planned, it collided with planetoid Dimorphos as part of the DART mission – the first ever test of planetary defense. The mission is to check how much a hitting a small celestial body will change its course.
A probe the size of a small car collided with a cosmic rock with a diameter of about 160 meters on Tuesday at 1.14 Polish time, about 11 million kilometers from Earth. This is the first ever attempt by humans to change the trajectory of the celestial body in case it threatened the Earth.
The event was broadcast live thanks to a camera installed in the vehicle, transmitting images at a rate of 1 frames per second with a 38-second delay due to the distance. The transmission, showing Dimorphos’ increasing rough surface, continued until the collision, when NASA announced that it had lost the probe signal.
“This is humanity’s great leap in the name of planetary defense,” said the NASA official who hosted the broadcast. The event was additionally photographed by the LICIACube device constructed by the Italian space agency, which disconnected from the probe on September 11.
The DART probe took off from the Vandenberg base in California on Wednesday, November 24, 2021. It was launched into space by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. DART is the first vessel to test in outer space NASA’s new NEXT-C ion engine, powered by solar energy.
Also participating in the DART mission is a small satellite LICIACube from the Italian Space Agency, which was launched by the spacecraft before hitting the asteroid to monitor the course of the action. In 2024, the European Space Agency (ESA) will send the Hera probe to explore the created crater and the new orbit of the asteroid. Hera is expected to reach the asteroid in 2026.
Are asteroids a threat to Earth?
Asteroids, also called asteroids or asteroids, are small celestial bodies orbiting the sun. According to NASA, we currently know about 1.2 million such objects that are found in different parts of the solar system, including the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Asteroids vary in size and can range from a few meters to several hundred kilometers in diameter.
While none of the asteroids identified so far pose a threat to Earth in the foreseeable future, many objects have yet to be observed. NASA estimates that about 90 percent of asteroids larger than a kilometer in diameter have been discovered, but only about 40 percent of the smaller ones. Meanwhile, a mere 150-meter asteroid would destroy a large city and cause far-reaching effects that are felt over a large area.
The DART mission is not the first attempt to hit small solar system bodies. On July 4, 2005, an impactor launched by the American Deep Impact spacecraft collided with the core of comet Tempel 1. Back then, the goal was not to change the comet’s trajectory, but to explore its interior better.
Main photo source: Reuters