NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Check (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 ready to launch a first-of-its-kind planetary protection mission for NASA within the early hours of Wednesday morning, sending the spacecraft on its approach to deliberately crash into an asteroid.
“We’re smashing into an asteroid,” NASA’s Launch Providers Program senior launch director Omar Baez stated throughout a press convention. “I can not imagine we’re doing that”
Generally known as the Double Asteroid Redirection Check (or DART) mission, the area company is attempting to be taught ” deflect a menace that may come” towards Earth, NASA affiliate administrator of the science mission directorate Thomas Zurbuchen stated.
“Relaxation assured, that rock proper now shouldn’t be a menace,” he stated.
SpaceX is launching DART on a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Area Drive Base in California, with a liftoff window that begins at 1:20 a.m. ET on Wednesday.
DART is a 610-kilogram spacecraft that can 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 area firm Redwire contributed the spacecraft’s navigation and photo voltaic arrays that can energy it.
The aim 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 influence modifications the asteroid’s trajectory.
An outline of the DART mission plan.
NASA/Johns Hopkins APL
The DART mission is costing NASA about $330 million in complete, with SpaceX having received 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 best mission. Thanks all for enabling SpaceX to be part of a extremely vital planetary protection mission,” SpaceX director of civil satellite tv for pc missions Julianna Scheiman stated 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 Check, or DART, spacecraft onboard is seen throughout dawn on Nov. 23, 2021 at Vandenberg Area Drive Base in California.
Invoice Ingalls / NASA
To present 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 photographs of the influence occasion.
Whereas the mission is testing a way of planetary protection, Zurbuchen emphasised that NASA shouldn’t be 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 in the present day, none of them are a menace inside 100 years or so,” Zurbuchen stated.
Infographic displaying the sizes of the 2 asteroids within the Didymos system relative to some objects on Earth.
NASA/Johns Hopkins APL