It will be an unprecedented mission for humanity – Photo: Pat Rawlings / Getty Images
The first planetary defense system – “DART” – will be launched by NASA and SpaceX on Tuesday, November 23. The objective is to launch an unmanned rocket at high speed to collide with an asteroid and change its trajectory, but that space rock does not really represent any real danger to humanity.
DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) will take off from Earth on November 23 and its task will be to deliberately collide with Dimorphos, a space rock that revolves around the Sun. According to NASA calculations, it will pass within 11 million kilometers of the Earth and the rocket will collide with the rock between September 26 and October 1, 2022.
The mission has an approximate cost of $ 330 million dollars and will head to Dimorphos at more than 20,000 kilometers per hour.
“It will not destroy the asteroid, it will only give it a little shake” Nancy Chabot, from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory told El Universo.
Dimorphos is actually a 160 meter diameter moon orbiting Didymos, which is almost 800 meters in diameter. Taking into account that the DART will weigh about 640 kilograms its task will be to modify its orbit, currently of around 11 hours and 55 minutes. If everything works as it should, Dimorphos orbit will last less, like 11 hours and 45 minutes, according to NASA.
“If one day an asteroid is discovered on a collision course with Earth we will have an idea of the force that we will need so that that asteroid does not touch the Earth” added Andy Cheng of John Hopkins University.
NASA experts also added that while it is true that DART is not the only defense system in case an asteroid heads straight for Earth, the most important thing first is to identify what the real threats are out there.
According to NASA, there are about 27,000 near Earth objects, but none pose a real threat to the planet, at least not until 2300, and even then the probability is quite low – 0.057% chance right now.
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