bam!  NASA collides with a spacecraft in an asteroid in a defense test

bam! NASA collides with a spacecraft in an asteroid in a defense test

A NASA spacecraft hit an asteroid in an unprecedented rehearsal for the day a killer rock threatens Earth.

A NASA spacecraft smashed into an asteroid at great speed on Monday in an unprecedented rehearsal for the day a killer rock threatens Earth.

The biggest blow in the galaxy occurred on a harmless asteroid 9.6 million kilometers away, as the spacecraft called Dart smashed into the small space rock at a speed of 22,500 kilometers per hour. Scientists expected the collision to cause a crater, throw streams of rock and dirt into space, and most importantly, change the asteroid’s orbit.

Telescopes around the world and in space aim at the same point in the sky to capture the view. Although the effect was immediately apparent – the Dart’s radio signal suddenly stopped – it would take days or even weeks to determine how much the asteroid’s path had changed.

The $325 million mission was the first attempt to change the position of an asteroid or other natural object in space.

“No, this is not a movie plot,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson tweeted earlier today. “We’ve all seen it in movies like Armageddon, but the real-life stakes are high,” he said in a pre-recorded video.

Monday’s target: a 160-meter-high asteroid named Demorphos. It is actually a moon of Didymos, Greek for twins, a fast-spinning asteroid five times larger than the matter that made up the smaller partner.

The pair have been orbiting the sun for eons without threatening the Earth, making them ideal candidates for saving the world.

Launched last November, the vending-machine-sized Dart — short for the Double Asteroid Redirection Test — hit its target using new technology developed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, the spacecraft builder and mission manager.

The Dart’s onboard camera, an essential part of this smart navigation system, captured the Dimorphos’ view barely an hour before the impact.

“Woo hoo,” Johns Hopkins mission systems engineer Elena Adams stated. “We see Dimorphos, very cool, wonderful.”

With an image resurrecting every second, Adams and other ground controllers in Laurel, Maryland watched with increasing excitement as Demorphos loomed larger and larger in view along with his larger companion.

A small satellite followed a few minutes later to take pictures of the collision. The Italian Cubesat was released from Dart two weeks ago.

Scientists insisted that Dart would not destroy Demorphos. The spacecraft carried a tiny 570 kilograms, compared to the asteroid’s 5 billion kilograms. But that would have to be plenty to shrink its 11-hour-55-minute orbit around Didymus.

The effect should recede by 10 minutes from that, but telescopes will need anywhere from a few days to nearly a month to check the new orbit. Scientists note that a predicted 1 percent orbital shift may not seem like much. But they stressed that it would be a big change over the years.

Planetary defense experts prefer to push a threatening asteroid or comet out of the way, given enough leeway, rather than blowing it up and creating multiple pieces that can rain down on Earth. Multiple shocks of large space rocks or a combination of colliders and so-called gravitational tractors, as yet uninvented devices that use their own gravity to pull an asteroid into a safer orbit, may be required.

“The dinosaurs didn’t have a space program to help them figure out what was coming, but we do,” said Catherine Calvin, NASA’s senior climate advisor, referring to the mass extinction 66 million years ago that is believed to have been triggered by a large asteroid impact. volcanic eruptions, or both.

The B612 nonprofit, dedicated to protecting Earth from asteroid strikes, has been seeking impact tests like Dart’s since it was founded by astronauts and physicists 20 years ago. Regardless of Monday’s achievement, the world must do a better job of identifying the myriad of space rocks lurking out there, warned the Foundation’s CEO, Ed Low, a former astronaut.

According to NASA, less than half of the estimated 25,000 objects have been detected near Earth at a lethal range of 140 metres. Less than 1 percent of the millions of smaller asteroids that could cause large-scale injuries are known.

Lu noted that the Vera Rubin Observatory, which is nearing completion in Chile by the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Energy, promises to revolutionize the field of asteroid discovery.

Finding and tracking asteroids, he said, “is still the name of the game here. It’s the thing that has to happen in order to protect Earth.”

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