Representative image of a near-Earth asteroid Photograph:( Twitter )
NASA's DART mission, which will crash a spacecraft into the moon of an asteroid is the first step to test human capabilities to change the orbit of an object travelling through space. This knowledge may come in handy in future when defending Earth against the threat of an asteroid that is on a collision course
What if an asteroid is headed on a collision course? What would we do to escape the fate of dinosaurs? Well, we have nuclear weapons that can possibly be fired at the asteroid. But what if the broken pieces are still large enough to create major mayhem on Earth?
Questions like these are important for our planetary defence. And we need a plan in place to better tackle such a situation when it occurs.
Perhaps as a step in that direction, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is planning to intentionally crash a spacecraft into a moon of an asteroid to see what happens to its orbit.
NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission (DART) is set to lift-off this November. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will be used for this.
The mission is targetting Dimorphos, a small moon that revolves around the asteroid Didymos.
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Didymos is a Near Earth Object (NEO). These are space objects whose orbits bring them within 30 million miles radius around Earth.
Didymos (the asteroid) and Dimorphos (the moon) will come within a distance of 6,835,083 miles (11 million kilometers).
The NASA spacecraft will deliberately crash into Dimorphos and see what happens to its motion in space. It is estimated that motion of the moon will change by 1 per cent. Though this doesn't sound much, it would affect the period of revolution by about seven minutes.
A DART program executive at NASA headquarters has been quoted by CNN as saying that the mission was the first step to test methods for hazardous asteroid deflection.