Artist's impression of the DART mission spacecraft on its way to the asteroid. Credit: NASA

NASA to Crash Spacecraft Into Asteroid in 2022

Another spacecraft will then be launched to the asteroids to evaluate the results of the impact.

NASA has provided us with an official launch date for the long-anticipated DART mission. Humanity is beginning to understand and evaluate the potential threats to Earth from space. The DART spacecraft will be the first attempt to change the trajectory of an asteroid with a direct impact. If successful, this technique will be used in the distant future to protect Earth from hazardous asteroids.


Everything you need to know about the DART mission to asteroid Didymos

Double Asteroid Didymos

Near-Earth Double Asteroid (65803) Didymos belongs to the Apollo family, does not pose a threat to our planet and consists of two bodies with a diameter of 750 and 160 meters.

Convenient orbit

The orbit along which this system moves turned out to be very convenient for the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) project to change the flight trajectory of the smaller of the bodies by means of a directed impact by a spacecraft. Experts have proposed to use a similar technique in the future to protect the Earth from dangerous objects.

Infographic of the DART mission and the anticipated effect of the collision with the asteroid. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL
Infographic of the DART mission and the anticipated effect of the collision with the asteroid. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

DART spacecraft

The device will weigh 500 kilograms, it will carry solar and star sensors, as well as a DRACO camera with an aperture of 20 centimeters and a LICIACube CubeSat, which will separate from DART a few days before contact with the asteroid and will monitor the collision. DART will reach the target with the help of ion engines, which will receive energy from the deployable ROSA solar panels.

The new launch date for the DART Mission

Initially, the launch of the vehicles into space using the Falcon 9 launch vehicle was scheduled for the period from July 21 to August 24, 2021, but NASA decided to postpone the launch of the mission to November 23, 2021.

Reasons

This was due to the problems that arose during the creation and installation of a DRACO camera and solar panels on the device, in addition, the coronavirus pandemic played a role in the transfer, which complicated the work of specialists. The postponement of the DART mission launch will not cause a change in the date of arrival at the asteroid, which is scheduled for the end of October 2022.

Artist's impression of the Hera spacecraft during its mission to access the change in Dimorphos's orbit. Credit: ESA - Science Office
Artist’s impression of the Hera spacecraft during its mission to access the change in Dimorphos’s orbit. Credit: ESA – Science Office

Hera spacecraft

Hera is a spacecraft that will be launched to Didymos in order to assess the results of DART’s mission. Hera is expected to launch into space in October 2024 and arrive at Didymos in 2027, delivering 6U APEX (Asteroid Prospection Explorer) and Juventas cube-sats satellites, which will attempt to land on Dimorphos at the end of their mission.

Objectives

The tasks of the vehicles include studying the relief and composition of the surface of asteroids, including a man-made impact crater, determining their shape and mass, as well as studying the internal structure based on low-frequency radar observations and establishing the fact of a change in the Dimorphos’s orbit.


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Sources:

ESA. (n.d.). Industry starts work on Europe’s Hera Planetary Defence Mission.
O’Neill, M. (2021, October 7). NASA to launch Double asteroid redirection test mission – preventing a hazardous asteroid from striking Earth. SciTechDaily.
Pietsch, B. (2021, October 6). NASA will shoot rocket at asteroid to test ‘planetary defense’ strategy. The Washington Post.
Specktor, B. (2021, October 7). NASA spacecraft will crash into an asteroid at 15,000 mph. will it make a dent? LiveScience.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. My experience as a freelance writer began in 2018 but I have been part of the Curiosmos family since mid-2020. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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