In order to protect the Earth from a future killing asteroid attack, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has planned to crash a refrigerator-sized spacecraft, which will force it to change its orbit. The spacecraft will be fired about nine times faster than the speed of a bullet into the space.
The NASA has said that it would be their first mission ever to demonstrate an asteroid deflection technique for planetary defence, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART).
"DART would be NASA`s first mission to demonstrate what`s known as the kinetic impactor technique, striking the asteroid to shift its orbit, to defend against a potential future asteroid impact," Lindley Johnson said. Johnson is the planetary defence officer at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
The asteroid Didymos, which is based on a binary system, consists of two bodies, Didymos A (780 metres in size) and Didymos B (160 metres in size).
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Scheduled to be launched in 2010, DART would impact Didymos B, which is the smaller of the two bodies.
"A binary asteroid is the perfect natural laboratory for this test," Tom Statler. Statler is the programme scientist for DART at NASA Headquarters.
"The fact that Didymos B is in orbit around Didymos A makes it easier to see the results of the impact, and ensures that the experiment doesn`t change the orbit of the pair around the sun," he added.
DART would fly to Didymos after the launch. It would be using autonomous targeting system on-board to aim itself at Didymos B.
With a speed about nine times faster than a bullet, the spacecraft would strike the smaller body. To be precise, the speed would be approx. six kilometres per second.
Allowing the scientists to better determine the capabilities of kinetic impact as an asteroid mitigation strategy, the earth-based observatories would be able to see the impact and the resulting change in the orbit of Didymos B around Didymos A.
"DART is a critical step in demonstrating we can protect our planet from a future asteroid impact," the DART investigation co-lead Andy Cheng said.