Our universe is filled with asteroids, and at any time, the Earth could be a major victim should one or more asteroids that are dangerously large ever venture off their path. It’s a problem humans have been living with since the dawn of man and will continue to live with until the very end.
An asteroid or space rock hit Earth on a daily basis. However, the ones that do are too small to cause a problem as they burn out before exiting the atmosphere.
What about asteroids too big to burn out before hitting the surface?
On Friday, the space agency, in partnership with Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), is planning a device capable of redirecting asteroids. The space agency will begin first with a small asteroid, then upgrade its capabilities from there.
The DART project is designed for asteroids too big to break up; the ones that could take the lives of millions in a single blow.
According to a statement from Lindley Johnson, the planetary defense officer at NASA, DART is destined to be NASA’s first mission to showcase a technique known as kinetic impact. It’s all about crashing into an asteroid to change its orbit, which if done right, could defend Earth from an impact.
The target is an asteroid system dubbed Didymos, which is Greek for “twin.” The report claims this is a dualistic asteroid system made up of a single asteroid, Didymos A, and a smaller one known as Didymos B, which orbits its larger family.
“A binary asteroid is the perfect natural laboratory for this test,” said Tom Statler, program 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.”
The idea is to launch a spacecraft satellite the size of a refrigerator come 2022 to meet Didymos B. The spacecraft must collide with the asteroid at 3.7 miles per second, ultimately causing it to shift from its destination.
After the impact, scientists back on Earth will study information collected in a bid to tell if the technique is feasible when it comes down to protecting the planet from asteroids.
While DART is very important, there’s no guarantee that it’ll work as planned. If it doesn’t, researchers will have to come up with another brilliant idea to protect the planet from the very high possibility of an asteroid crashing into Earth.
Can NASA blow up asteroids instead?
Yes, blowing up asteroids is possible. However, researchers do not recommend going this route.
Launching a bomb into a huge asteroid will likely break it up into smaller pieces that will still strike Earth. The impact from multiple pieces could be more devastating; hence, the reason scientists prefer the idea of shifting asteroids off course.
At the end of the day, leaving Earth for another planet is the safest best. Then again, wherever humans travel to in the future, asteroids may always be an issue.