Halting Armageddon: How Smashing A Spacecraft Into A Traveling Asteroid Could Help Save The World


Many of us have seen movies such as Deep Impact and Armageddon. This sparked a new fear for people because they started to think about what would happen to them if an asteroid was truly headed for earth, something that would cause extinction for all the living creatures.

Is this really a possible? Could life, as we know it, end for everyone on earth? Scientists believe that this phenomenon could actually happen, which is why they’re always on the lookout for an asteroid’s path just to make sure not one of them is heading towards out direction.

The picture above shows the moment when NASA, and their science mission chief Thomas Zurbuchen, went on to celebrate the complete and total destruction of one of the spacecrafts they sent out to destroy an asteroid.

While the idea of smashing an asteroid sounds like it came straight out of a sci-fi fil, this was actually man’s first real-world test done  to see if the spacecraft could change the course of an asteroid if ever one was heading to earth and about to collide with it.

The experiment is called the Double-Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART. This involved sending a spacecraft far into the solar system. Its main goal was to smash an asteroid called Dimorphos, and rhis was orbiting  a larger rock named Didymos. While these weren’t headed to earth or become a threat to it, these became the perfect testing candidates for the said experiment.

The team behind the research has been set to observe Dimorphos with the use of ground-based telescopes. They want to confirm that DART’s impact would change the asteroid’s orbit around Didymos. The researchers expect this smash to shorten Dimorphos’ orbit by about 1 percent, or roughly around 10 minutes. They want to test and get the precise measurements of how much the asteroid was deflected. This is the reason behind a full-scale test that they’ll eventually conduct.

The researchers behind this program already are aware of the fact that the outset of the DART would mean that this was going to be a suicide mission, it was equipped with just three instruments, a adanced solar-system navigation tool, and an equally advanced camera. The latter will be utilized to find and image of Didymos and Dimorphos, something that no one has ever seen since time immemorial.

The third instrument attached to the spacecraft was a small cling-on cube satellite that was designed and made by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) called LICIACube. The pictures that this will be able to capture will be expected to be beamed back in the following days after it has been captured.

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(The Dimosphos that’s 530 foot-wide found right next to the larger parent body, Didymos)

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(Dimorphos from around 7 miles away)

In this video coming from NASA, you will be able to get to see the asteroids as DART sped towards them at a high speed of 14,000 miles per hour. The final picture the camera took had come just a mere milliseconds before the impact.

DART had been the very first mission of NASA’s new Planetary Defense Coordination Office. This is a division that solely works on defending the planet from objects that could impact us the way it once did during the time of dinosaurs.

“Planetary Defense is a globally unifying effort that affects everyone living on Earth,” said Thomas Zurbuchen. He is the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. He also said, “Now we know we can aim a spacecraft with the precision needed to impact even a small body in space. Just a small change in its speed is all we need to make a significant difference in the path an asteroid travels.”

The pair of asteroids had been found within 7 million miles (11 million kilometers) of Earth. The global had utilized dozens of telescopes that were stationed around the world and in space for the sole purpose of allowing man to observe them.

The next succeeding weeks to follow, they plan to characterize the ejecta produced. They will also get the precise measurements of Dimorphos’ orbital change. This is for them to find out and calculate just how efficiently and effectively DART had been able to deflect the asteroid. The results that they get is assist in validating and improving scientific computer models that are vital to the prediction of the effectiveness of this type of intervention. They hope that this will become a reliable strategy for them to deflect any form of heavenly bodies that may impact with the earth.

Around four years from now, the European Space Agency’s Hera project will look into detailed surveys of both Dimorphos and Didymos. They will also shift their attention on the crater left by DART’s collision as well as the exact measurement of the mass of Dimorphos.



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