NASA’s DART spacecraft, the first planetary defense mission, will crash at 7:14 p.m. on September 26 against Dimorphos, a moon that orbits an asteroid called Didymos.
While neither asteroid poses a threat to Earth, the collision with Dimorphos will allow researchers to demonstrate the deflection technique along with several new technologies.
In addition, important data will be collected to improve asteroid deflection modeling and prediction capabilities.
Those enhancements will help scientists better prepare in the event an asteroid is discovered to be a threat to Earth, NASA explains.
Launched in November 2021, the roughly 600-kilogram DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) spacecraft will be at a point 11 million kilometers from Earth when it impacts Dimorphos, which is only 160 meters wide.
The spacecraft will approach the space rock at about 6.1 kilometers per second. Dimorphos orbits Didymos, which is about 780 meters in diameter, every 11.9 hours.
While the asteroid Didymos will remain largely intact in its motion around the Sun, the collision is expected to deflect the orbit of the small asteroid Dimorphos by a small but unmistakable amount, a fraction of one percent, enough to be measured by radar. and ground-based telescopes.
Researchers will have the chance to get a close look at the Didymos asteroid system, albeit briefly, thanks to DART’s onboard DRACO imager and a CubeSat, LICIACube of the Italian Space Agency. (YO)