NASA DART mission: American Space Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will crash a spacecraft into an asteroid today, September 26. But why? Well, NASA through its DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission wants to see the possibilities to stop a huge space rock from hitting the Earth and ascertain how difficult it can be to tackle such situation.
Where will it happen?
The demonstration will happen approximately 11 million km away (7 million miles) on a target named Dimorphos. According to NASA, the asteroid is not currently on a path towards the Earth. It also assures that the test will not accidentally send it in to our planet’s direction.
When will it happen?
The impact will take place 7.14 PM EDT on September 26 (4.44 AM IST on September 27). Telescopes, including the new super space observatory James Webb, will watch the impact from afar.
Why is NASA crashing a spacecraft into asteroid?
We have seen in Hollywood movies how brave astronauts with the help of nuclear weapons get rid of a killer asteroid. But what if it happens for real? So, NASA is about to find the answer to this question by simply smashing a spacecraft into an asteroid.
The idea is only rock’s velocity would required to be changed by a small amount in order to alter its path, thus making it miss the Earth. However, it needs to be done far enough in advance.
The DART mission aims to check this theory with a head-on crash into 160m-wide Dimorphos at over 20,000km/h. This would likely change its orbit around a much larger asteroi – Didymos – by just a few minutes everyday. Nasa says people will get some spectacular images from this impact.
What mission leader says?
“Dart is the first planetary defence test mission to demonstrate running a spacecraft into an asteroid to move the position of that asteroid ever so slightly in space,” explained Dr Nancy Chabot from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, which leads the mission for Nasa.
“This is the sort of thing, if you needed to, that you would do years in advance to just give the asteroid a small nudge to change its future position so that the Earth and the asteroid wouldn’t be on a collision course,” she told BBC News.
What Dart programme scientist say?
“Because of the speed of light and the distances involved, it’s really not feasible for there to be a pilot sitting on the ground with a stick controlling the spacecraft. There just isn’t enough time to respond,” said Dr Tom Statler, the Dart programme scientist at Nasa.
“We’ve had to develop software that can interpret images taken by the spacecraft, figure out what is the right target and make the course correction manoeuvres by firing thrusters.”
Where to watch live?
NASA will livestream the event on NASA TV, the space agency’s app and its YouTube channel. It will begin the livestream from the spacecraft at 6 PM EDT on September 26 (3.30 AM IST on September 27.