So the planetary protection of the Earth has become almost a reality – for the first time in history, a spacecraft launched from the surface of our planet as part of the DART mission, in the fall of 2021 will crash into an asteroid and knock the potential threat from orbit.
How do we shoot down an asteroid
The time has come for apocalyptic fantasy stories to come true – the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has scheduled for July 22, 2021 to launch the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission. The spacecraft September 22 will reach its target and hit the asteroid Didymos B – the kinetic impact will be enough to change the orbital velocity of the object at about 0.5 mm / sec, which will change the asteroid’s rotation period for a few minutes. Such changes in parameters are sufficient to confirm the success of the mission with telescopes from Earth.
In fact, the asteroid Didymos B has not yet been able to damage our planet, and the DART mission is a test of the Earth’s space defence capabilities. After all, the diameter of an astronomical object is 168 meters, which is typical for those dangerous asteroids that really threaten the Earth.
A catastrophic collision of the Earth with a sufficiently large asteroid still seems unlikely, but NASA and the European Space Agency are actively working on plans to protect our planet from this threat.
The asteroid system Didymos (or 65803 Didymos), which is located about 11 million km from Earth, was chosen to demonstrate the capabilities of Earth space technology. Around the larger Didymos A object with a diameter of about 780 m rotates the DART mission target – the asteroid Didymos B with a diameter of 168 m.
Yes, until, as in the movies, there will be no launches of war missiles or “destructive rays” from a spacecraft – automatic Earth spacecraft just a little bit collide the asteroid from orbit. But it will be enough to say in a situation that is dangerous for our planet – “We shot down a dangerous asteroid and the Earth is no longer threatened!
The spacecraft, with the help of a new powerful ion engine, will reach a given point in outer space and then, at a speed of 6.6 km/sec, will crash into the asteroid, leaving a crater with a diameter of about 20 m on it.
DART is a planetary protection technology to prevent dangerous asteroids from striking the Earth. NASA’s experimental mission in 2021 will be the first demonstration of kinetic impact technology to change the movement of asteroids in space. We can say that the development of real planetary protection of the Earth begins.
In 2024, the European Space Agency has planned a mission Hera, which will further verify the results of the DART mission and improve the technology of planetary protection of the Earth.
Will the planet’s population sleep better from such news? In general – yes, of course, because the collision of the Earth with a dangerous asteroid is a real, though unlikely scenario. If the DART mission is successful, for the first time in history, planetary protection will be effective.