This coming Monday will be the first ever attempt to change the trajectory of a natural celestial body, according to LiveScience. As part of the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission, NASA's unmanned spacecraft will collide with an asteroid to deflect it off course.
The DART apparatus is a squat cube-shaped probe weighing 550 kilograms with sensors, an antenna, an ion engine and two solar arrays 8.5 meters long. Moving at a speed of 21,160 km / h, it will crash into Dimorph, a satellite of the asteroid Didyma, to slow down the movement of the first. Neither asteroid poses a threat to the Earth: at the time of the collision, they will be at a distance of more than 11 million kilometers from us. The goal of NASA is to test whether such a method is suitable in principle, in case a really dangerous asteroid rushes to Earth one day.
The collision will be considered successful if Dimorph's 12-hour orbit can be slowed down by 73 seconds, although the real change is predicted to be as much as 10 minutes. During the collision, the probe will collapse, and to get a more accurate picture of the results, scientists will turn to another spacecraft, the Italian LICIACube. At the time of the collision, it will be 55 kilometers away and will send a photo strike to Earth. Some ground-based observatories, the James Webb Space Telescope and Hubble will also witness the collision.
The probe began its journey to Didim and Dimorph 10 months ago. However, the idea of such a collision appeared much earlier. In the early 2000s, European Space Agency (ESA) scientists proposed a similar project, naming it after Don Quixote, who attacked windmills, mistaking them for giants. This mission was never carried out. In 2011, ESA and NASA began working on a joint asteroid impact mission (AIM). Later it was divided - NASA became engaged in DART, and ESA - Hera. The latter should be launched in 2026. China is also planning a mission: its National Space Administration is planning a collision with the asteroid Bennu in 2026.
Bennu is not as harmless as Didymus and Dimorph: in 150 years, a space rock weighing 85.5 million tons should fly within 7.5 million km of Earth's orbit. The chances of Bennu hitting Earth are estimated at 1 in 2700. But if it does, the consequences would be catastrophic: millions of deaths if Bennu hits a city, and giant tsunamis if it hits the ocean. The explosion from the collision is 1200 megatons - for comparison, the asteroid that destroyed the dinosaurs released about 100 million megatons when it fell.
The DART encounter with Dimofr is scheduled for Monday, September 26 at 7:14 pm EDT. This is 2.14 September 27 Moscow time.