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Is NASA preparing for Armageddon? For the first time, the trajectory of an asteroid will be changed

We recently talked about the NASA project onchanging the trajectory of an asteroid by ramming it with a spacecraft. DART has been in development since 2018, and finally on November 24, 2021, approached its final ground stage. The launch of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle with a striker on board took place from the Vandenberg Space Force base at 9:21 Moscow time. NASA announced this on its Twitter page. The first stage of the B1063 rocket took part in the launch, which had already completed two flights earlier. She managed to successfully separate and land on a floating platform in the Pacific Ocean. Later, after 55 minutes of flight, the second stage launched the unmanned DART spacecraft into its planned orbit, and also successfully separated. The device reoriented itself to the Sun and deployed its solar panels. Further events will now develop in space, where, for the first time in the history of mankind, the system of protecting the planet from asteroids will be tested in practice. Up to this point, all tests were carried out only by computer modulation.

Impact space probe DART headed for an asteroid to change its trajectory

DART asteroid protection system - what it is and how it works

The very name of the mission "DART" stands for“Double asteroid redirection test”. The name is due to the fact that the unmanned aerial vehicle is heading towards a system of two asteroids - 750-meter Didim and its satellite Dimorf with a diameter of about 160 meters. It should be noted that the asteroid carries a potential threat, since its orbit crosses the Earth's. On the nearest distance it will fly up to our planet in 2123. However, the asteroid does not pose a real threat, so NASA chose it as a target for a trial strike. Even if the trajectory changes after the collision, it will not pose a danger to us.

The collision with the asteroid Dimorf should occur in a little less than a year - on October 22, 2022. An impact vehicle with a total mass of about 550 kg will fly into the asteroid at a speed of 24 thousand km / h.

“It's like hitting a golf cartpyramid of Cheops, with the only difference that the car will rush at a speed of 24 thousand km / h, "says planetary scientist Nancy Shabot from Johns Hopkins University.

Diagram of the DART striker

The spacecraft will contain huge8.5-meter ROSA solar panels that can swing towards the Sun. They serve as the main source of energy for the spacecraft. These batteries were previously tested on the ISS. The apparatus is propelled by two xenon ion engines. A new type of antenna is responsible for communication with the Earth, which has a high gain.

DART spacecraft prepared for launch

DART also contains a cubesat (small stand-aloneapparatus) equipped with powerful DRACO cameras. Ten days before the collision of the spacecraft with the asteroid, he detaches to film the event from the side and transmit the images to Earth. The device also contains solar and star sensors, scientific instruments, as well as the SMART Nav optical navigation system. Four hours before the collision, it will take over control and completely autonomously direct the spacecraft to the intended point of the asteroid.

DART mission budget is about 330 milliondollars. SpaceX, which won the tender, will receive 69 million. It should be noted that this is SpaceX's first mission to another astronomical object. So Julianne Scheiman, the company's director of civil satellite missions, called it “the coolest”.

Flight trajectory of the DART probe and the asteroid Dimorf before and after the collision

What happens after an asteroid collision

To examine the collision results in detail,an ESA mission is slated for 2024, dubbed Hera. She is expected to arrive at Didyma in 2027. The probe will be equipped with cameras, as well as a lidar, which will make it possible to scan the topography of both asteroids with high accuracy and build a map.

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Hera is also expected to have twocubsata. One is equipped with a ground penetrating radar, and the second - with a near-infrared spectrometer, as well as equipment for studying dust. Both kubsats will try to land on Dimorfos.

NASA invited to launch the DART missionHollywood actor Bruce Willis, who starred in the movie "Armageddon", where he saved the Earth from an asteroid. But the actor for some reason refused the invitation.

I must say that since the approval of NASAof the DART project in 2018, there were rumors that the National Aeronautics Administration was preparing for something. An impending Armageddon in the face of a dangerous asteroid? According to the representatives of NASA themselves, so far there is nothing to fear. For at least the next 100 years, no asteroids threaten us, even such a potentially dangerous one as Bennu. Nevertheless, you must admit that it will not hurt to have on Earth a system of protection against threats from outer space that has been proven in practice.