NASA’s DART spacecraft He is only a few days away from meeting him. asteroid Dimorphos, which it will hit to try to divert its orbit. This is the first planetary defense mission, which this time will test our technology to prevent a space threat in the future.
DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) took off on November 24 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Now, after more than nine months of travel, he has sent the first images of his target, which he has captured at a distance of 32 million kilometers.
Dimorphos, 160 meters in diameter, is a satellite of another larger asteroid, Didymos. None presently pose any danger to Earth, making them the ideal target for this redirection test.
NASA engineers calculate that DART will intercept Dimorphos next september 26, when the asteroid is 11 million kilometers from Earth. The event will be broadcast live through the space agency.
The plan to deflect an asteroid
In the coming weeks, before impact, DART engineers will execute three correction maneuvers to refine their trajectory toward the asteroid. The final maneuver will take place on September 25 and from that moment they will allow the ship to guide itself autonomously to its destination.
The plan is for the probe to accelerate to 6.6 kilometers per second and hit Dimorphos to deflect its trajectory around Didymos. A minisatellite with a camera on board (built by the Italian Space Agency) will detach from the spacecraft days before the crash to record the entire event.
After impact, the minisatellite will examine the crater left by the spacecraft, as well as the general condition of the asteroid. However, to verify that the object deviated from its orbit – and therefore determine if the mission was successful – observations will have to be made from telescopes on the ground.
Likewise, the European Space Agency (ESA) plans to launch the Hera spacecraft towards this binary asteroid system in 2024 to analyze in detail “the crime scene” left by DART and thus obtain the final conclusions on this planetary defense test.