NASA successfully launches planetary defence system DART

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admin November 24, 2021
Updated 2021/11/24 at 3:37 PM

NASA successfully launched the DART spacecraft, the world’s first planetary defence system, from the Vandenberg US Space Force Base on Tuesday at 10:21 p.m. Pacific time (11:51 a.m. IST Wednesday). It was launched on a Falcon 9 rocket by SpaceX.

The spacecraft split from the Falcon 9 second stage around 55 minutes into the voyage, according to NASA, and will shortly begin to orient itself toward the Sun.

The DART spacecraft was designed by NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office and manufactured by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland.

The spacecraft is aiming towards Dimorphos, a tiny moonlet with a diameter of around 160 metres.

At a speed of around 6.6 kilometres per second, or 24,000 kilometres per hour, the spaceship will smash with it. Between September 26 and October 1, 2022, the collision is likely to occur.

The moonlet poses no danger to Earth, and the mission’s only purpose is to test new technologies. According to NASA, “carrying out a real-world test on an asteroid with mainly unknown physical attributes is an essential next step to assess existing models and enhance them further to handle possibly dangerous asteroids in the future.”

There are now approximately 25,000 Near Earth Objects, with no known asteroid bigger than 140 metres having a serious risk of colliding with Earth in the next 100 years.

Didymos is a perfect system for the test mission, according to Nancy Chabot, DART Mission Coordination Lead and Planetary Scientist for Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, because it is an eclipsing binary, which means it has a moonlet that orbits the asteroid regularly and can be seen when it passes in front of the main asteroid.

Following the hit, the research team will use several telescopes on Earth to determine how much the asteroid has been deflected.

 

Source: The Indian Express

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