NASA and ESA are finally ready to test the Earth's planetary defenses to see if we can successfully defend ourselves against the apparent invasion of space rocks. But scientists are not sure what will happen.
The target they chose is the Didymos B asteroid, approximately 160 meters in diameter, half of a binary asteroid system. Didimos B orbits the larger asteroid Didimos A every 11.92 hours and this will help determine the ultimate success (or failure) of the mission.
The Didimos system is classified as a near-Earth object (NEO), which means that it is close, but not too close, to strike us, making it the perfect test for our antimeteor safety.
The Joint Asteroid Impact Assessment Project (AIDA) launched by ESA and NASA in 201
"Today, we are the first humans in history to have the technology to potentially divert an asteroid from impact on Earth," ESA astronomer Jan Carnelli told the Technical Review.
] "The main question that remains to be answered is the technologies and models that we have good enough to actually work with? You must have an insurance policy before driving a car. Well, AIDA is the insurance policy for planet Earth. "
There may be some complications to the mission, however.
When the Japanese space agency JAXA bombed the Rugu asteroid in April, it made a much larger crater than expected. In addition, the surface material behaves like sand, which can affect the deflection efficiency.
"If gravity is also dominant in Didymos B, although it is much smaller, we could end up with a much larger crater than our models and laboratory experiments have shown so far," explained planetary scientist Patrick Michel from CNRS.
"Ultimately, very little is known about the behavior of these small bodies during strikes, and this can have major consequences for planetary defense."
DART will oppose in Didymos B at 23 760 kilometers per hour (14 760 mph). However, all this force will only become a change in asteroid velocity of just a centimeter per second or so, which could change the orbital period from almost 12 hours to just a matter of minutes.
The mission is scheduled to launch in July 2021, with an impact expected in September 2022.
A cubesate called LICIAcube will detach from the DART vessel just before the impact and send the impact photos back to Earth. for analysis so we will have front row seats to see if we are doomed or not.
The Era Observation Spacecraft will launch in 2023 and make observations beginning in 2027 to give a definitive assessment of the mission.
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