Meet Dart, a space probe that will bang into an asteroid this Monday – India Today

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Earth, while alone in the darkness of space, is not really fully alone when it comes to incoming guests from deep space. These guests are mostly objects that are remnants of the origin of the solar system. One such remnant struck Earth about 66 million years ago, wiping dinosaurs from the face of the planet.
We call them Near Earth Objects (NEO) and among them are asteroids. Just last week, five of them came close to Earth in what is called a planetary flyby. While there was no danger from these objects, there could be one in the future that could be on its way to hit us. Nasa, which tracks these outer space objects, wants to be ready to hit them back and is set to test a technology that will deflect these incoming asteroids if one dared to in the future.
The technology is already on its way to the asteroid, where it will intentionally crash to test a kinetic impactor method to slightly change the orbit of the asteroid. They call it DART.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test or DART is a first-of-its-kind spacecraft, which has been designed to test a unique method to deflect an asteroid coming towards Earth with a high chance of impacting the planet. The spacecraft will intentionally crash on the asteroid to change its motion in space through kinetic impact.
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Nasa has said that the mission is a test of the ability to achieve a kinetic impact on an asteroid and observe the asteroid’s response. If successful, the method will become a key element of the planetary defense effort against Near Earth Objects, which includes findings, tracking, and then hitting them to change their course of movement.
The target for the unique mission is the binary, near-Earth asteroid system Didymos, which at the moment does not pose any threat to Earth. The system composes of two NEos, an asteroid about 780-meter wide and its moonlet, Dimorphos about 160-meters in size.
Dart will collide with Dimorphos, which is orbiting Didymos, to slightly alter its orbit while travelling at a speed of roughly 24,000 kilometers per hour.
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The near-Earth asteroid was originally discovered in 1996 by Joe Montani of the Spacewatch Project at the University of Arizona. The Didymos system is an eclipsing binary as viewed from Earth, meaning that Dimorphos passes in front of and behind Didymos as it orbits the larger asteroid as seen from Earth.
Hopefully, the orbit of the asteroid slightly changes and when it comes to astronomical science and orbital dynamics, a slight degree of change in an object’s orbit is enough to steer it away in space as gravity comes into play. A suit of telescopes both on the ground and in space will be observing the crash.
We will also be bringing you LIVE coverage of the crash here.
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As the spacecraft collides with the asteroid, computers will take over creating a highly sophisticated and detailed simulation of the crash to evaluate the effectiveness of this mitigation approach and assess how best to apply it to future planetary defense scenarios. One of the mission objectives involves measuring the effects of the impact and resulting ejecta on Dimorphos.
All eyes are now on Monday’s critical impact when a human-made machine will officially end its journey by crashing on an asteroid and hopefully giving Earth a new tool to defend itself.
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