Watch | NASA mission to test out Armageddon scenario blasts off

WION Web Team
Washington, United States Published: Nov 24, 2021, 12:06 PM(IST)

The DART spacecraft was designed to impact an asteroid as a test of the technology. It must be noted that the asteroid being impacted is not a threat to Earth. Photograph:( Twitter )

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The SpaceX rocket carrying the experiment lifted off at 10:21 pm Pacific Time (0621 GMT Wednesday) from Vandenberg Space Force Base

A NASA mission to deliberately smash a spacecraft into an asteroid to see if its course can be altered blasted off Tuesday from California.

The SpaceX rocket carrying the experiment lifted off at 10:21 pm Pacific Time (0621 GMT Wednesday) from Vandenberg Space Force Base, NASA TV's live stream showed.   

Also read | NASA, SpaceX to launch spacecraft today and kick an asteroid off course. Are we in danger?

After the launch, taking to Twitter NASA announced "Asteroid Dimorphos: we're coming for you!"

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SpaceX also tweeted a live feed of the launch:

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The DART mission is a planetary defence-driven test of technologies to prevent an impact of an asteroid on Earth. In this demonstration, a kinetic impactor technique will be used to change the motion of an asteroid in space for the first time. 

Under the leadership of APL, the program is managed by NASA's Solar System Exploration Program at Marshall Space Flight Center for NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office, as well as the Science Mission Directorate's Planetary Science Division.

The DART spacecraft was designed to impact an asteroid as a test of the technology. It must be noted that the asteroid being impacted is not a threat to Earth. 

Watch the spacecraft's journey here:

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However, if an Earth-threatening asteroid is discovered in the future, NASA believes this asteroid system is a great place to test whether intentionally crashing into an asteroid can change its trajectory. 

Also read | To avert Armageddon, NASA to collide spacecraft into asteroid to alter its orbit

The spacecraft contains sophisticated navigation and imaging instruments, including the Italian Space Agency's Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids (LICIACube), which will monitor the crash and its after-effects.

"The CubeSat is going to give us, we hope, the shot, the most spectacular image of DART's impact and the ejecta plume coming off the asteroid. That will be a truly historic, spectacular image," said Tom Statler, DART program scientist.

The DART probe, which is a box as big as a large fridge with solar panels the size of limousines on either side, will crash into Dimorphos at approximately 15,000 miles an hour.

DART investigation team leader Andy Rivkin said the current orbital period is 11 hours 55 minutes, but the kick is expected to shave around 10 minutes off that time.

Also read | Hubble telescope captures violent process of star formation

Because the moonlet's internal composition and porosity are unknown, it is unclear how much energy will be transferred by the impact.

Apparently, the more debris generated, the greater the force exerted on Dimorphos.

"Every time we show up at an asteroid, we find stuff we don't expect," said Rivkin.

There are 10,000 known near-Earth asteroids 460 feet in size or greater. Despite the fact that no known asteroid larger than 140 meters could potentially strike Earth for the next 100 years, only about 40 per cent of all asteroids have been discovered and/or identified as of October 2021.

Scientists estimate that a 460-foot asteroid strikes the Earth every 20,000 years, and asteroids wider than six miles, like the one which caused the extinction of most life on Earth (including dinosaurs) 66 million years ago, occur every 100-200 million years.

(With inputs from agencies)

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