New Delhi | Jagran World Desk: The US Space agency is all set to launch a mission aiming at targeting an asteroid. NASA will launch the first spacecraft designed to collide with the asteroid and help test the technologies preventing space catastrophes. The 'Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission is set to hit the smaller asteroid of the two-asteroid system Didymos and change its trajectory through kinetic impact.

NASA aims to demonstrate the feasibility of using an interceptor to divert asteroids that could potentially collide with Earth.NASA  also hopes that this mission will provide scientists with their first actual data on how a kinetic impactor approach to planetary defense can work in the real world, rather than only in simulations.

What is DART?

DART is the first-ever mission dedicated to investigating and demonstrating one method of asteroid deflection by changing an asteroid’s motion in space through kinetic impact. This method will have DART deliberately collide with a target asteroid—which poses no threat to Earth— in order to change its speed and path.

DART’s target is the binary, near-Earth asteroid system Didymos, composed of the roughly 780-meter (2,560-foot) -diameter “Didymos” and the smaller, approximately 160-meter (530-foot)-size “Dimorphos,” which orbits Didymos.

DART will impact Dimorphos to change its orbit within the binary system, and the DART Investigation Team will compare the results of DART’s kinetic impact with Dimorphos to highly detailed computer simulations of kinetic impacts on asteroids.

Doing so will evaluate the effectiveness of this mitigation approach and assess how best to apply it to future planetary defense scenarios, as well as how accurate the computer simulations are and how well they reflect the behavior of a real asteroid.

Need of the Mission: Objectives

As per NASA, The current congressionally directed objective of the NEO Observations Program is to find, track, and characterize at least 90 percent of the predicted number of NEOs that are 140 meters and larger in size–larger than a small football stadium–and to characterize a subset representative of the entire population.

Objects of this size and larger pose a risk to Earth of greatest concern due to the level of devastation an impact would cause and should continue to be the focus of global search efforts. While no known asteroid larger than 140 meters in size has a significant chance to hit Earth for the next 100 years, less than half of the estimated 25,000 NEOs that are 140 meters and larger in size have been found to date.

At this time, planetary defense experts are uninformed of any large asteroids on their way to Earth. However, if they find one, the second phase of planetary defense begins: striving to prevent mankind from becoming extinct like the dinosaurs, she added.

DART’s overall budget is $313.9 million, spread out over eight years, and includes spacecraft development, launch vehicle development, and mission operations through late 2022.

“It’s a miracle what this team has accomplished, with all of the obstacles in the way like COVID and the development of so many new technologies,” said Elena Adams, DART mission systems engineer at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland.

Posted By: Ashita Singh