NASA has a new plan to save the Earth just in case a huge asteroid pays us an unexpected visit. And no, Bruce Willis has nothing to do with it. That plan is known by the name of ‘DART,’ which stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test.
The plan needed to be put to the test first, and NASA already did that. The DART mission is pretty simple: smashing into an asteroid to change its trajectory. No, not into one that’s on a collision course with our planet. But if it works in the case of a harmless asteroid, it should also work on a hypothetical ‘Chicxulub 2.0’ as well.
Eyes set on Dimorphos
Dimorphos is the asteroid targeted by NASA’s mission. The space rock is a really small one with no chance of colliding with Earth, and it orbits around a larger asteroid called Didymos. DART successfully collided with Dimorphos a few days ago, but there is still plenty of time needed for NASA astronomers to be sure that the mission was indeed a success. A few months are needed to see if the asteroid’s trajectory was altered enough to pass by a planet such as Earth.
Dora Föhring, a NEOCC astronomer, stated as SciTechDaily quotes:
This was the conclusion of weeks of discussions, meetings, accurate planning, and observational design by our team, together with local observers and scientists at all our collaborating stations. This fantastic campaign has produced data that our astronomers, together with the whole DART collaboration, will now begin to analyze to extract valuable scientific information on the effects of the impact.
The Hera mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) will have the role of studying Dimorphos up-close. Ian Carnelli, a Mission Manager at Hera, said, as the same source mentioned above quotes:
The results from DART will prepare us for Hera’s visit to the Didymos binary system to examine the aftermath of this impact a few years from now,
Hera will help us understand what happened to Dimorphos, the first celestial body to be measurably moved by humankind, and ultimately to protect ourselves from space rocks that could one day do the same.
Feel safer in the Universe yet?