The POT launched this tuesday a spacecraft that is scheduled to deliberately collide with an asteroid in the fall of 2022 to divert its orbit, in an unprecedented test mission that is part of the US agency’s planetary defense strategy.
The Redirect Test mission Asteroids Doble (DART) took off punctually at 22:21 local time (6:21 GMT) aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Space Force Base in Vandenberg, California (USA). This mission has been considered “historic” by NASA, since the objective is to collide with an asteroid to divert it from its orbit in order to test the technology that would be necessary to avoid a possible collision with the Land.
The DART spacecraft will head towards the asteroid Didymos and its small moon, Dimorphos, which will be the target of the impact to alter its orbit, which is harmless to Earth. According to NASA calculations, Didymos and Dimorphos will be relatively close to Earth – about 11 million kilometers – at the estimated time of impact. Once DART collides with Dimorphos, NASA will examine the changes in its orbit around Didymos to assess whether the method is feasible to defend the Earth, in case some asteroid represents a threat to the planet in the future.
For the impact to be effective, DART will travel at about 6.6 kilometers per second, an “incredibly fast” speed necessary for the crash to alter “a little” the trajectory of Dimorphos, the size of the George Washington monument – an obelisk. It is 155 feet high (47.2 meters) located in the US capital, but with greater volume, described in an interview with EFE the software engineer at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory Luis Rodríguez, from the DART team.
The collision will be recorded by a briefcase-sized satellite called CubeSat, which has been developed by the Italian Space Agency. That cubicle will be deployed shortly before the collision to capture images and videos of the impact and its effects on Dimorphos. The data from the mission, according to NASA, will be combined with those from the Hera mission, from the European Space Agency and scheduled between 2024 and 2026 to analyze in more detail the asteroids and the crater that DART will leave in Dimorphos.