Can we change the course of an asteroid by hitting it? DART mission will find out

September 26, 2022  17:39

Is it possible to change the course of an asteroid by crashing into it with an aircraft? A new NASA mission will give us the answer to this question: today, the DART mission spacecraft will crash into the asteroid Dimorph at a speed of 24,000 km/h.

The apparatus, the size of a bus was launched from Earth in November 2021, and its main purpose is not so much to change the course of the asteroid, but to find out whether our planet can be protected from dangerous asteroids if you hit them with a flying machine.

The Hubble and James Webb space telescopes will follow the collision, and for the latter it will not be an easy task, because it was not originally designed for this purpose. As for the Hubble, because of its location, it will be able to show what happened only 15 minutes after the collision of the asteroid and the aircraft.

The LICIACube, a shoebox-sized mini-spacecraft developed by the Italian Space Agency and the aerospace engineering company Argotec, will also have to record the collision. It was first attached to an aircraft, but recently separated from it and now travels on its own to witness a collision at a safe distance of 55 km. It may take LICIACube may take several weeks to send all the images received back to the Earth.

DART-Infographic.jpg (43 KB)

Dimorph is 11 million kilometers from Earth, and although it is considered a relatively close asteroid to us, it does not pose a threat to the Earth right now. Dimorph is a satellite of a larger 780-meter asteroid called Didim, and this fact will facilitate the measurement of the result of the collision: scientists will be able to assess whether the impact will change the trajectory of Dimorph around Didim.

The asteroid Dimorph is actually quite small: its diameter is only about 163 meters, and its collision with the Earth, although it will pose a significant threat, but it will not be a disaster of planetary scale.

The aircraft that will crash into it is also small – only about 1.2 meters across. Despite all this, DART is a unique mission that can give a lot of useful information to scientists.

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