Saturday, October 16, 2021

    NASA To Launch Real-Life Armageddon Mission To Deflect ‘Devastating’ Asteroid From Hitting Earth

    Alamy/Buena Vista Pictures

    NASA is set to launch the first-ever attempt to divert an asteroid off course… by crashing a spacecraft into it.

    It sounds like it could be a sequel to Armageddon, but the space agency’s ‘planetary defence’ system is all too real, and it could one day save the human race from extinction.

    DART spacecraft set to intercept asteroid (NASA)NASA

    As the dinosaurs discovered all-too-late, a brush with a giant asteroid could bring devastating consequences for our planet, and with around 4,700 of the celestial bodies out there having been deemed ‘potentially hazardous’ by NASA, having a plan of action in case one gets too close for comfort is something most people would probably agree is a good idea.

    Luckily, our smartest astrophysicists are on the case, and they’re set to test their plan out for the first time towards the end of this year, when they’re set to launch an uncrewed spacecraft onboard a SpaceX rocket, and set it on a collision course with a small moon named Didymos B that orbits a larger asteroid called Didymos A.

    The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission is set to see the spacecraft, which the Telegraph describes as the size of a ‘golf buggy,’ hit the asteroid at 14,763mph, with NASA’s scientists standing by to observe whether this impact will be able to alter the moon’s speed and orbit.

    Didymos B (left) (NASA)NASA

    ‘We’re going to demonstrate one technology to cause that deflection that, someday, if we need to, we might use to prevent an asteroid from hitting the Earth,’ explained Tom Statler, a programme scientist at NASA. ‘We certainly hope that we will never have to deploy an asteroid deflector, but we want to do the test now.’

    So while this asteroid in question doesn’t pose a threat to Earth, observing how it responds to being hit by the space equivalent of a bumper car could help us learn how to deal with objects that are far more dangerous.

    The DART mission launch is scheduled for November 23, with the spacecraft expected to intercept Didymos in September 2022.


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