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NASA’s DART mission tests whether it is possible to deflect an asteroid that threatens Earth & More Latest News Here

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NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft will gently collide with the harmless asteroid Dimorphos on Tuesday, September 27. It will thus execute the first asteroid deflection test, which has been planned for years, and which could save the Earth from destruction if it crosses the path of an asteroid that represents a real danger in the future.

On September 27, at 1:14 AM Spanish time, NASA’s DART spacecraft will collide slightly with its target, the asteroid Dimorphos, seeking to slightly change its orbit. It will be the first test mission of planetary defense designed to evaluate the results of the kinetic impact method, which consists of modifying the course of an asteroid potentially dangerous for the Earth through a subtle impact that does not generate fragments.

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It is worth clarifying that Dimorphos it does not constitute a real danger for the planet, it will only be used to test the technique. The asteroid, 150 meters in diameter, is 11 million kilometers from Earth and is the “moon” of a binary asteroid system, which orbits around a larger asteroid, Didymos, which has a diameter of 800 meters.

European and Spanish participation

The momentum of the 600-kilogram spacecraft, traveling at a speed of 6 kilometers per second, will generate a small change in the speed of Dimorphos, which will be detectable from ground-based telescopes as a variation in the orbital period of the asteroid system. Subsequently, the hera mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) will visit the asteroid Didymos after the impact of NASA’s DART mission against Dimorphos: the two asteroids will be mapped in high resolution, in addition to collecting additional information on the system.

Inside of the scientific team Spanish astrophysicist Josep Maria Trigo-Rodríguez, from the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE-CSIC) and member of the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia, participates in NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission. According to a statement from the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) of Spain, Trigo-Rodríguez stressed that the DART mission will try to better understand the key points that influence the effectiveness of the method to be tested.

He explained that a projectile without explosive charge It will “dig” a small crater in the asteroid, sending material from the body’s surface away from the projectile. The efficiency of this process will be directly related to a greater or lesser deviation of the asteroid. At the same time, the scientist explained that it is necessary to better understand from this experiment other factors that could influence the effectiveness of the technique.

an unusual geometry

In the same vein, researchers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), in the United States, have recently published a new study in The Planetary Science Journal, in which they analyze different aspects of the geometry of the spacecraft and its potential influence on the success of the mission.

According to a press release, research lead scientist Mike Owen indicated that the initial logical departure was to think of a simple solid geometry for the craft, such as a solid cube or sphere. However, the geometry of the DART spacecraft, designed specifically for this mission, creates a much larger “footprint” than a solid sphere of aluminum with the same mass.

This affects the cratering process and ultimately the impulse imparted to the asteroid, reducing it by 25%. The specialists will seek to determine in this real experience how this characteristic of the ship influences the success of the process and, mainly, how it could affect future missions against larger targets.

Reference

Spacecraft Geometry Effects on Kinetic Impactor Missions. J.Michael Owen. Mallory E. DeCoster, Dawn M. Graninger, and Sabina D. Raducan. The Planetary Science Journal (2022). DOI:https://doi.org/10.3847/PSJ/ac8932

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