In news– In the first-of-its kind, save-the-world experiment, NASA(with spacecraft named Dart) is about to clobber a small, harmless asteroid millions of miles away.
- The asteroid with the bull’s-eye on it is Dimorphos, about 7 million miles (9.6 million kilometers) from Earth.
- It is actually the puny sidekick of a 2,500-foot (780-meter) asteroid named Didymos, Greek for twin.
- Discovered in 1996, Didymos is spinning so fast that scientists believe it flung off material that eventually formed a moonlet.
- Dimorphos roughly 525 feet (160 meters) across orbits its parent body at a distance of less than a mile (1.2 kilometers).
- Little Dimorphos completes a lap around big Didymos every 11 hours and 55 minutes.
- Double Asteroid Redirection Test(DART) is a NASA space mission aimed at testing a method of planetary defense against near-Earth objects.
- The Johns Hopkins lab took a minimalist approach in developing Dart — short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test — given that it’s essentially a battering ram and faces sure destruction.
- It has a single instrument: a camera used for navigating, targeting and chronicling the final action.
- Believed to be essentially a rubble pile, Dimorphos will emerge as a point of light an hour before impact, looming larger and larger in the camera images beamed back to Earth.
- The spacecraft’s navigation is designed to distinguish between the two asteroids and, in the final 50 minutes, target the smaller one.
- The Dart will zero in on the asteroid on September 26, intent on slamming it head-on at 14,000 mph (22,500 kph).
- The size of a small vending machine at 1,260 pounds (570 kilograms), the spacecraft will slam into roughly 11 billion pounds (5 billion kilograms) of asteroid.
Numerous asteroid missions-
- Planet Earth is on an asteroid-chasing roll. NASA has close to a pound (450 grams) of rubble collected from asteroid Bennu headed to Earth.
- Japan was the first to retrieve asteroid samples, accomplishing the feat twice.
- China hopes to follow suit with a mission launching in 2025. NASA’s Lucy spacecraft, meanwhile, is headed to asteroids near Jupiter, after launching in 2021.
- Another spacecraft, Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, is loaded into NASA’s new moon rocket awaiting liftoff; it will use a solar sail to fly past a space rock that’s less than 60 feet (18 meters) next year.
- In the next few years, NASA also plans to launch a census-taking telescope to identify hard-to-find asteroids that could pose risks.
- The Psyche mission of NASA is a journey to a unique metal-rich asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter.