NASA’s Planetary Defence Spacecraft is Set To Undergo it's First Real World Test
NASA, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, has put forward its plans to begin real-world testing of its brand new planetary defense system in the next couple of years which is a huge leap in the right direction for NASA, defense, and overall, planet earth.
Asteroids still pose a major threat to humans and all life on earth. Even just a moderately sized asteroid could lead to apocalyptic like events and end many many lives. As most people will agree, it was asteroids that killed all the dinosaurs. If they can completely eradicate an entire species much larger and arguably more powerful than humans, then we should be very very worried.
The new test is nicknamed the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART for short. What will happen is, the DART spacecraft will be sent on a mission directly on a collision course with a non-threatening asteroid called Didymos. Then NASA will be able to test the ability of the spacecraft at redirecting the direction of the celestial object, just as if it were heading for earth and needed to be stopped.
The size of Didymos is the same as any other asteroid that poses quite a common threat to earth which is what makes this experiment so useful. The asteroid is approximately 800 meters across, and its secondary body or “moonlet” has a 150-meter size.
Around 11 million kilometers from Earth, DART will deliberately crash into Didymos’ moonlet at a speed of around 6 km/s. Accuracy will be ensured by using the sophisticated navigation software onboard the DART spacecraft. This will be the first example of the kinetic impact technique to change the motion of an asteroid in space. The propulsion system used will be the NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster - Commerical (NEXT-C), which will be an efficient way of reaching the target on schedule.
When is this happening?
NASA is expecting to launch the DART spacecraft in late December 2020 and through May 2021, with impact expected in October 2022, which isn't that long away now.
I think this is very exciting news and am glad NASA is undertaking such tests and measures to ensure the safety and continuity of the human race.