Although at this time and until the next century there is no evidence of an asteroid at least 460 feet wide threatening to collide with our Earth, NASA wants all be ready in case a rock escapes radar. For this purpose, the Space Agency crashed (voluntarily) one of its ships against an asteroid last Monday, September 26.
The film’s maneuver is part of the DART or Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission; the crashed ship was launched into space in November 2021. The crash where the ship was completely destroyed is part of a series of experiments with which it is planned to know everything necessary to deflect an asteroid. Said thus, the asteroid Dimorphos deflected during this first experiment was not a threat for humanity, but it was useful to know if we are ready to modify the trajectory of a threatening asteroid.
“Right now, we are defenseless against any asteroids pointed at Earth,” said Markus Wilde, associate professor of aerospace, physical, and space sciences at the Florida Institute of Technology. Wilde is not involved in the mission. But, although the difficult part of the experiment is over, the researchers will have to wait a few weeks to know the success of the mission.
Researchers will study changes in Dimorphos’ orbit around another asteroid named Didymos. For this, there are two dozen telescopes on Earth that will make precise measurements of the two rock system. Before the collision, Dimorphos took around 11 hours and 55 minutes to circumnavigate its 780-meter-wide companion. This time should have been reduced to a few minutes after the collision.
In the midst of an actual deflection of an asteroid that is about to collide with Earth, such a surge is expected to occur years, if not decades, before the impending collision. “That’s a lot of time to make sure we don’t miss Earth,” said Andrew Rivkin, a planetary astronomer at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory and one of DART’s lead scientists.