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Started to crash: Nasa starts asteroid defense test

2021-11-24T17:46:48.635Z

Could the earth be saved if an asteroid were on a collision course? A NASA space probe has now taken off for a test mission to throw an asteroid moon out of its orbit.



Read the video transcript here

Start of a project that might one day save the earth.

A Falcon 9 rocket from the space company SpaceX was launched late Tuesday evening in California.

On board: the DART space probe - short for "Double Asteroid Redirection Test".

The probe is expected to hit an asteroid eleven million kilometers from Earth and change its orbit when it hits.

With the test mission in space, NASA researchers want to find out whether the earth could be protected in this way from a large asteroid on a collision course in an emergency.

Lindley Johnson, NASA Defense Officer:


“This is a test.

Nature has given us a double asteroid that appears near Earth so that we can observe it from observatories on Earth. " 

The spacecraft's spacecraft is now supposed to target the asteroid Didymos, which is orbited by its mini moon Dimorphos. The DART spacecraft then deliberately steers through the smaller boulders at a speed of around 15,000 miles per hour. The collision will change the speed of Dimorphos by a fraction of a percent, but its orbital time by several minutes. Enough to be measured by NASA with telescopes on Earth. At least that's the plan.

Elena Adams, NASA systems technician:


»We can't really predict the angle of attack on Dimorphos very well. We know how we're going to hit him in his trajectory - we hit him head-on. And we know where the sun will be at that point in time. But the problem is, we can't tell whether there will be a boulder or not. Our angle of attack on Dimorphos is therefore really uncertain at the moment and will depend on what Dimorphos actually looks like. And we'll only know that in the last, let's be honest, the last 20 seconds before the impact. "

The larger boulder Didymos has a diameter of about 780 meters, its moon Dimorphos is about 160 meters tall.

From a purely statistical point of view, this corresponds more to the size of asteroids that could pose a threat to Earth.

According to the DART team, the targeted double asteroid does not represent a specific threat. 

Lindley Johnson, NASA Defense Officer:


“It's just a test.

We don't want to see an asteroid hit Earth and then have to find out if it works.

We want to know how the spacecraft works and how the asteroid reacts to the impact before we get into such a situation. "

In just under a year, the researchers will know whether a spaceship about 19 meters long and weighing 360 kilograms will actually be sufficient to deflect an asteroid of this size.

The DART ship should reach Dimorphos and Didymos in about ten months. 

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2021-11-24

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