NEW YORK (CBSNew York) – Tuesday evening, humanity will make its first attempt to defend itself against threats that are out of this world – asteroids.
The sky appeared to ignite in February 2013 as the Chelyabinsk meteor made its way towards earth. A shock wave shattered windows, injuring more than 1,000 people. The homeland of this meteor – a near-Earth asteroid about 20 meters wide.
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“We’re constantly hit by small meteorites, but we know there are bigger ones,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s planetary science division. Glaze says that is why NASA is now preparing for the future, when an asteroid threatens life on Earth and we must defend our planet.
Tuesday evening, the DART mission flies into space. DART stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test. Using solar power for propulsion, in 10 months NASA’s DART will be 6.5 million kilometers and within striking distance of a double asteroid close to Earth – Didymos – the larger of the two. , and Dimorphos, the smallest, or “moonlet”.
DART will crash into Dimorphos in hopes of redirecting him. “The asteroid we’re trying to hit is about the size of a football stadium,” Glaze said. “And we’re going to try and hit him with something the size of a refrigerator.”
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DART will not have its eyes on Dimorphos until about an hour after impact. “It will appear as a pixel in the camera,” Glaze said.
The spacecraft will start taking pictures of its target and navigate without human intervention. “Determine what is the best angle to hit this asteroid and get that momentum transfer,” Glaze said.
Could the redirect send the asteroid in the wrong direction? WCBS-TV in New York asked the curator of meteorites at the American Museum of Natural History Denton Ebel. “It’s wizarding,” Ebel said. “We know these things strike the earth, so we have to know how to deflect them – especially the bigger ones.”
Fortunately, scientists don’t know of any big ones in our direction. Rest easy knowing that NASA is ready to launch the future of our planetary defense.
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You might be wondering why NASA doesn’t blow up the asteroid? Glaze says it’s the only thing you don’t want to do. Instead of a big asteroid rushing towards Earth, you’ll end up with thousands: blowing it up doesn’t change its orbit.