By JOHN ANTCZAK, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — NASA launched a spacecraft Tuesday evening on a mission to smash into an asteroid and take a look at whether or not it might be potential to knock a rushing area rock off beam if one have been to threaten Earth.
The DART spacecraft, brief for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in a $330 million venture with echoes of the Bruce Willis movie “Armageddon.”
If all goes properly, in September 2022 it’ll slam head-on into Dimorphos, an asteroid 525 ft (160 meters) throughout, at 15,000 mph (24,139 kph).
“This isn’t going to destroy the asteroid. It’s simply going to give it a small nudge,” stated mission official Nancy Chabot of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, which is managing the venture.
Dimorphos orbits a a lot bigger asteroid known as Didymos. The pair aren’t any hazard to Earth however provide scientists a manner to measure the effectiveness of the collision.
Dimorphos completes one orbit of Didymos each 11 hours, 55 minutes. DART’s objective is a crash that can sluggish Dimorphos down and trigger it to fall nearer towards the larger asteroid, shaving 10 minutes off its orbit.
The change within the orbital interval will probably be measured by telescopes on Earth. The minimal change for the mission to be thought-about successful is 73 seconds.
The DART method might show helpful for altering the course of an asteroid years or many years earlier than it bears down on Earth with the potential for disaster.
A small nudge “would add up to an enormous change in its future place, after which the asteroid and the Earth wouldn’t be on a collision course,” Chabot stated.
Scientists always seek for asteroids and plot their programs to decide whether or not they might hit the planet.
“Although there isn’t a at present recognized asteroid that’s on an influence course with the Earth, we do know that there’s a massive inhabitants of near-Earth asteroids on the market,” stated Lindley Johnson, planetary protection officer at NASA. “The key to planetary protection is discovering them properly earlier than they’re an influence menace.”
DART will take 10 months to attain the asteroid pair. The collision will happen about 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometers) from Earth.
Ten days beforehand, DART will launch a tiny remark spacecraft equipped by the Italian area company that can observe it.
DART will stream video till it’s destroyed on influence. Three minutes later, the trailing craft will make photos of the influence web site and materials that’s ejected.
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