NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Take a look at (DART) spacecraft is put within the nosecone of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket in preparation for launch.
Ed Whitma / Johns Hopkins APL / NASA
Elon Musk’s SpaceX is about to launch a first-of-its-kind planetary protection mission for NASA within the early hours of Wednesday morning, sending the spacecraft on its option to deliberately crash into an asteroid.
“We’re smashing into an asteroid,” NASA’s Launch Companies Program senior launch director Omar Baez mentioned throughout a press convention. “I can not imagine we’re doing that”
Often known as the Double Asteroid Redirection Take a look at (or DART) mission, the house company is making an attempt to study “how one can deflect a risk that might come” towards Earth, NASA affiliate administrator of the science mission directorate Thomas Zurbuchen mentioned.
“Relaxation assured, that rock proper now just isn’t a risk,” he mentioned.
SpaceX is launching DART on a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Area Power Base in California, with a liftoff window that begins at 1:20 a.m. ET on Wednesday.
DART is a 610-kilogram spacecraft that may spend 10 months touring to a pair of asteroids, that are named Didymos and Dimorphos. Johns Hopkins Utilized Physics Laboratory in Maryland constructed DART, whereas house firm Redwire contributed the spacecraft’s navigation and photo voltaic arrays that may energy it.
The objective of the mission is to hit the smaller of the 2 asteroids, Dimorphos, with the spacecraft at about 15,000 miles per hour and see how the affect adjustments the asteroid’s trajectory.
An summary of the DART mission plan.
NASA/Johns Hopkins APL
The DART mission is costing NASA about $330 million in complete, with SpaceX having gained a $69 million contract in 2019 for the launch. Not solely is it NASA’s first planetary protection mission, however DART additionally represents SpaceX’s first mission launching a spacecraft to a different planetary physique.
“That is simply the good mission. Thanks all for enabling SpaceX to be part of a very vital planetary protection mission,” SpaceX director of civil satellite tv for pc missions Julianna Scheiman mentioned throughout a press convention.
SpaceX check fired its Falcon 9 rocket final Friday in preparation for the launch.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket with the Double Asteroid Redirection Take a look at, or DART, spacecraft onboard is seen throughout dawn on Nov. 23, 2021 at Vandenberg Area Power Base in California.
Invoice Ingalls / NASA
To provide a way of scale, the Dimorphos asteroid is concerning the measurement of the Nice Pyramid of Giza, whereas the Didymos asteroid is wider in diameter than the One World Commerce Middle tower in New York Metropolis is tall. After arriving on the asteroids, and earlier than it smashes into Dimorphos, the DART spacecraft will deploy a small dice satellite tv for pc to take images of the affect occasion.
Whereas the mission is testing a way of planetary protection, Zurbuchen emphasised that NASA just isn’t conscious of any near-term dangers to Earth. There are billions of asteroids and comets orbiting the solar, however only some have an opportunity of hitting the Earth for a really very long time.
“Of all of the close to Earth objects that we all know at the moment, none of them are a risk inside 100 years or so,” Zurbuchen mentioned.
Infographic displaying the sizes of the 2 asteroids within the Didymos system relative to some objects on Earth.
NASA/Johns Hopkins APL