Vandenberg launches an asteroid deflection mission. Here's how it works
A NASA launch 2021 aims to test a system that it is hoped will one day be used to protect the earth from a catastrophic asteroid. The asteroid deflection will lift from the Vandenberg Air Force Base.
A NASA launch 2021 aims to test a system that it is hoped will one day be used to protect the earth from a cataclysmic asteroid strike. The asteroid deflection will lift from the Vandenberg Air Force Base.
If an asteroid breaks to Earth, Vandenberg Air Force Base may be the first line of defense on the planet.
NASA is currently developing a way to divert asteroids on a collision course against the planet, preventing a catastrophic event that could endanger life on Earth. (If you forgot what this is, dust off your VHS copy of "Armageddon" and see Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck urgently worrying about just that for two and a half hours.)
So The Mission with Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) was born.
The premise is simple: Hit an asteroid with enough power to change its orbit and (hopefully) prevent a collision. , was approved in 2017.
"DART is a critical step in showing that we can protect our planet from a future asteroid impact," Andy Cheng of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory said in a news release at the time. (Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory is the leader of the NASA project).
"Since we do not know so much about their internal structure or composition, we must perform this experiment on a real asteroid," he said. "With DART, we can show how we can protect the earth from an asteroid attack with a kinetic butcher by striking the dangerous object in another pathway that would not threaten the planet."
Launched from Central Coast
To test the idea, NASA will launch a DART spacecraft using SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base around July 2021.
On Tuesday, Vandenberg Air Force Base confirmed spokeswoman 2nd Kaylee Schanda that the mission was about to start from the Central Coast based that year, but made inquiries for further comment on the mission to NASA. Requests for comment from NASA were not returned as of Thursday evening.
The target is a binary asteroid system that has been under close observation for more than a decade: the 2,559-foot Didymos A, and a smaller "moonlet" orbiting the one measuring the size of the Washington Monument.
The Moonlet – the primary target – is the size of other asteroids "that may pose the most likely threat to Earth," according to NASA's Planetary Defense website.
But don & # 39; Don't worry, neither the larger ones nor the larger Didymos A are estimated to actually hit the ground – they will certainly fly with a few miles to reserve, even without the test.
When it differs from the rocket, the DART spacecraft will cruise for a little more than a year before deliberately crashing into the moonlight, hopefully hitting its orbit by a fraction of one percent, according to the website.
"This will change the lunar orbital period by several minutes – enough to be observed and measured using telescopes on Earth," according to the website.
Impact would occur around September 2022, when the Didymos system is within 6.8 million miles of Earth (for reference, the moon is 238,900 miles away).
The test is essential to determine if such a procedure would actually work in the event that an asteroid appears to be heading toward impact with Earth.
The total cost for NASA to launch DART is about $ 69 million, according to a news release in April.