Star Wars: The DART mission as a foundation for planetary defenses

To ensure that our fate does not end like that of the dinosaurs, NASA launched its first planetary defense test. On the night from Monday to Tuesday, a probe collided with the asteroid Demorphos in the name of science. You can be there in the live broadcast when the effect is!

By Rene Froschmeier

Thanks to Hollywood, we know how humanity will succeed when a brutal asteroid collides with Earth “disaster” And the “do not search”. It’s all just a fantasy, and it shows. But suppose an asteroid is really on a collision course with Earth: what can humanity do about it?

Space scientists have been trying to solve this global problem for decades. Why not launch a rocket at the space stone? Basically, this is exactly what happens. In November last year, the US NASA launched the first-ever planetary defense test, DART . mission (Double Asteroid Redirect Test). The goal is to drastically change the asteroid’s orbit as a result of the collision.

Weak asteroid what?

Didymos (Greek twin) is a double asteroid with a diameter of about 780 meters. His little twin, Demorphos, is the moon of Didymus.

Since then, the carrier rocket and probe have been flying dead straight like an arrow toward the asteroid Demorphos. On the night of September 27, the expedition enters its final phase. The probe, which is the size of a refrigerator, is expected to collide with the asteroid at a speed of 22 thousand km / h. The cosmic rocks are about 170 meters in diameter. David vs. Goliath!

“The mission is to demonstrate that we can change the asteroid’s orbit if necessary one day,” explains Michael Kuipers, project scientist at the European Space Agency (ESA) in an interview on FM4. A small Italian satellite near the impact site provided images of the crash.

The crash livestream starts at 3 AM!

Equipped with cameras, the probe must independently approach and end at the asteroid. “If there are no unexpected effects, the mission will succeed. I suppose so,” says Kuipers. With the intended effect of the DART probe – and the end of the live broadcast – the job is done. A European expedition provided in-depth knowledge of this first experimental mission.

DART followed by HERA

According to the plan, the ESA’s follow-up mission is scheduled for 2024 Hira Start and pay another visit to the asteroid. However, this will likely not be the case until the end of 2026. However, in this project, the focus is not on an asteroid collision. The HERA probe aims to study the effects of crashes on Dimorphos. First and foremost is the shift in the asteroid’s orbit. But HERA must also provide information about the structure and origin of the asteroid. These research findings could play an important role in the success of planetary defenses.

Survive via an asteroid crash

Given the impact of the climate crisis, an asteroid impact is an unlikely candidate for first place in the end-time scenario rankings. However, humanity’s future fate will depend on planetary defense systems, explains Michael Kuipers, ESA project scientist. notice:

“Asteroid collisions have occurred in the past and will continue to occur in the future. However, such an event is unlikely in the next few decades.”

The Demorphos effect alone can flatten urban areas, darken the sky, and even trigger tsunamis. However, there is no danger from this asteroid – the double asteroid is about eleven million kilometers from Earth. The research programs of NASA and the European Space Agency identify NEOs at an early stage and monitor their developments. “We want to ensure that such a collision does not happen, and that if the worst of the worst happens, humanity can be saved,” Kuipers proudly adds.

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