DART mission

Good morning dear #EUROAVIAns, in this Fact Friday we talk about how humans will try to divert an asteroid! 🌑

Let’s imagine this situation: we discover that a 100 m wide asteroid is directed towards Earth and it will hit a large city. How could this thread be faced? 😱 Panic is not an option and neither is using a nuclear weapon ☢️(image if something goes wrong with the rocket bringing it!). What we could do instead is to deviate the trajectory of the asteroid with a kinetic impact, that is hit the asteroid with a spacecraft. 🛰️ As crazy as it may sound, this is what NASA will do with its mission #DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) that took off in November 2021 and reach its target in September 2022 💪🏿. The DART spacecraft will hit the 160-m wide moon (or moonlet) of the 780-m in size Didymos asteroid at the modest speed of 6.6 Km/s. 😮

This asteroid is not a threat to Earth but the results of this mission will test our ability to change the course of a small celestial body 😏. Indeed, even if the kinetic impact method works on paper, the material composition and distribution of the asteroid can change drastically the effectiveness of the impact. Put in other words, we want all the kinetic energy of the spacecraft to be transferred in the kinetic energy of the asteroid and a minimum amount to cause the dissolution of the asteroid or to be lost in heat. 🧨

The DART spacecraft won’t be alone in its mission but will have a companion in the Cubesat LICIACube (Light Italian Cubesat for Imaging of Asteroids) of the Italian Space Agency (ASI). This little CubeSat will separate from the DART spacecraft 10 days before the impact and document with its camera the suicidal mission of its friend 🥲. A tearful space story that will contribute to the human species survival.  🌍

Images credit: NASA