To start with, we would like to introduce the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) spacecraft, which is made to collide with the Didymos, an asteroid that may pose a threat to Earth in a century’s time. The mission is launched by NASA to see the effect of DART and Didymos collide.
DART, as its name suggests, is a dart-like aircraft, which is on a self-collision, one way mission with the Didymos to give an insight to science about numerous things in their checklist. It is the very first operational test conducted by Science to change the motion of an asteroid in space using the kinetic impactor technique.
The test mission started and the DART was launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 10:21 PM, local time on Tuesday, dated 23rd Nov, which the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is carrying.
DART’s journey has been said to be of ten months. It would take the written time to reach the destination and strike with the binary asteroid system Didymos. Which dignifies, it will intercept the moonlet in late September 2022 since the Didymos is in the reach of 11 million kilometers from Earth.
The DART spacecraft, which is 1,210-pounds (550 kilograms), will probably have the kinetic impact deflection when it hits the moonlet at the speed of approximately 6.6k/s. Since Science waits to see the results, to make the DART reach the destination, it is equipped with a camera named DRACO and an autonomous navigation software onboard that will show and help the monitoring team to monitor and navigate the DART.
NASA says, when DART flings with the Didymos, it will, for a few minutes, change the orbital period of the moonlet – which will be enough to measure and observe results, they are willing to see through a telescope on Earth.
To keep pushing forward, the DART is affixed with ROSA (Roll Out Solar Arrays) that will help the DART in the electric propulsion system. The spacecraft will use the NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster, called Commercial (NEXT-C), a propulsion system based on solar electric energy to reach the destination in space.
The Challenges We Might Face
A planetary scientist at DART impact modeling working group lead and Johns Hopkins APL Angela Stickle said, before the DART shoves to its high-seed, there are a few possibilities that it would face challenges during the journey of taking off to the complete speed.
Besides, the above mentioned was the challenge for the DART. There are a few challenges we might face too, said Stickle to LiveScience in an email. But to overcome any of such challenges and adverse potential danger, the team is ready to take up whatever comes forward, stickle added.
To this, Elena Adams, a systems engineer at DART missions systems engineer and Johns Hopkins APL said – After exploring the scenarios, simulations, and unexpected events that may occur, the team has run numerous tests that make ways to overcome any worst possibilities.
Though the critics have been criticizing the test and claim it to be reckless and dangerous, Bill Nelson, the NASA administrator, said NASA and the US space command are continuously watching the movements and with the cover on it, they will ensure the spacecraft stays on its intended and designated orbit.
However, after the critics have criticized, and the DART has flung from Earth, the big news now is awaited in the year 2022 in late September – which will and should be of the success of the planned collision. It is though a long finale to wait for, it’s worth getting committed to waiting to see the results.
All we want to hear in the news is, NASA lost the signals from the DART because Stickle said, that is what will be an indicator of the DART hitting and successfully impacting the Dimorphous. Post which, from the telescopes on the Earth, we can see the impacts. The DART is completely under the watch of NASA and will remain so for all the months until it reaches its destination.
All we and the scientist are waiting for is the good news of us losing the signal!