Washington, Jan 23: If an asteroid were to head toward Earth in the predictable future, we would be quite unarmed. But to change this, NASA has approved a mission to throw a "small" asteroid off course in October 2022.
The aim is to establish whether how can we protect our planet from a future asteroid impact.
NASA launched a project “Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART)" with to hit an asteroid out of the orbit. The asteroid named as “Didymoon”, is a moon asteroid about 150 meters tall. It is a part of a double asteroid system- named after the Greek word for twins, Didymos-in which it orbits another 800-meter asteroid about a kilometer away.
DART is launched, it will be powered by a solar-electric-propulsion system and will ultimately collide with Didymoon.
This spacecraft will go with by a European Space Agency (ESA) spacecraft called Hera, which will collect data about the asteroid. According to EPS, Hera will be accompanied by two small CubeSats- nanosatellites for the collection of additional data like gravitational field and internal structure of the asteroid. The two satellites will be released around the asteroids and will land on the two space rocks.
Andy Cheng, a scientist of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and co-lead of DART said, “Since we don’t know that much about their internal structure or composition, we need to perform this experiment on a real asteroid. With DART, we can show how to protect Earth from an asteroid strike with a kinetic impactor by knocking the hazardous object into a different flight path that would not threaten the planet.”
The launch of the mission is scheduled to take place between December 2020 and May 2021.