NASA has a launch date for that generally Hollywood of missions, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, which is essentially a dry run of the film “Armageddon.” Unlike the movie, this won’t include nukes, oil rigs or Aerosmith, however rather is a viable test of our ability to change the trajectory of an asteroid in a significant and predictable manner.
The DART mission, managed by the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (!), includes sending a pair of satellites out to a generally close by pair of asteroids, known as the Didymos binary. It’s one large-ish asteroid, around 780 meters across — that is Didymos proper — and a 160-meter “moonlet” in its orbit.
As the moonlet is more typical of the kind liable to threaten Earth — there being more asteroids that will be that size and not easily observed — we will test the chance of intercepting one by smashing into it at almost 15,000 miles per hour. This will change the speed of the moonlet by a simple fraction of a percent, however enough that its orbit period will be influenced quantifiably. Realizing precisely how much will assist us with arranging any future asteroid deflection missions — as anyone might expect, there isn’t a lot of existing science on smashing your spacecraft into asteroids.
A companion rocket, called the Light Italian CubeSat for Imagine Asteroids, or LICIACube, just had the finishing touches put on it last week and will be launched instantly before the activity and will endeavor to fly by at the very moment of effect and capture “the resultant plume of ejecta and possibly the newly-formed impact crater.”
An extremely astonishing and fascinating mission certainly, yet must be deferred past its original launch window of this summer, and November 23 denotes the first day of the new launch window. DART is planned to launch from Vandenberg in Southern California at 10:20 PM on that date, on board a SpaceX Falcon 9.
With Osiris-Rex and Japan’s Hayabusa-2 missions, Earth authorities are getting very acceptable at reaching out and touching asteroids.