What Is NASA’s DART Mission? NASA’s Attempt To Safeguard Earth From An Asteroid
Ever since we got to know about the universe, space, and other celestial bodies, we have always remained not only curious but also scared of asteroids hitting the planet. And what if one asteroid actually hits the Earth? Are we prepared?
What Is DART?
In order to safeguard the planet from an asteroid coming to hit it, a myriad of deflection techniques can be used. These techniques range from a nuclear blast to using a spacecraft and nudging the asteroid in a different direction.
While there are both extreme and benign ways of approaching the situation, the use of the kinetic impactor technique lies somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.
The technique involves slamming one or more spacecraft into the asteroid at a very high speed in order to alter its orbit and move the planet out of the crosshairs.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test, abbreviated as DART, is the very first space mission to test the kinetic impactor technique or any other asteroid deflection technique.
Launched in November 2021, the mission is expected to arrive at the near-Earth asteroid Didymos in September 2022. The speed of the spacecraft will not be reduced so that it crashes into the Dimorphos, the asteroid’s small moon. The crash ought to be so impactful that it alters the time consumed by Dimorphos to orbit Didymos.
DART considers Didymos and Dimorphos as well-suited targets. The Dimorphos measures just 160 meters and the Didymos measure only 780 meters, proving that both targets are relatively small. As seen by optical ground-based telescopes, they appear as a single point of light fluctuating in brightness just as the Dimorphos revolves around the Didymos. The DART’s successful execution, though, will change the interval of those fluctuations.
Soon after the DART’s experiment at Dimorphos, the European Space Agency will be launching Hera, a mission to study Didymos and Dimorphos in detail. This will further aid scientists to determine the impact of DART.
Why NASA’s Dart Satellite Is On Its Way To Crash Into An Asteroid?
Working Of The DART
DART is not a very huge spacecraft. The body consists of a box not more than a meter wide on all sides, along with two roll-out solar arrays. The arrays provide a width of 12 meters to the spacecraft. A gentle continuous push is created by the charged ions generated by DART”s electric propulsion system.
Launched in November 2021 with a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, the spacecraft is said to revolve around Earth not once but many times. The electric thruster of the spacecraft helps in gaining the required speed to escape orbit. Then, it will move to Didymos. The course of action may perhaps fly past another asteroid titled 2001 CB21.
The single-science instrument in the DART is a high-resolution camera named DRACO that is also made to use in navigation.
DART will deploy an Italian Space Agency-designed CubeSat to observe the impact, just five days before the arrival.