Home Tech A planetary defense test spacecraft to prevent human extinction will be launched tomorrow daytime

A planetary defense test spacecraft to prevent human extinction will be launched tomorrow daytime

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NASA spacecraft asteroid satellite collision orbital change first experiment

Collision at a distance of 11 million km in September next year… Observation of change in orbital period

DART Spacecraft and Didymos Asteroid

(Seoul = Yonhap News) An image of the DART spacecraft, the near-Earth asteroid Didymos, and the satellite Dimorphus, which will be the first to conduct an asteroid impact test. In the lower right corner, far away is the Italian Space Agency’s Cubesat ‘LICIACube’, which will record the collision process. 2021.10.06 [NASA/Johns Hopkins, APL/Steve Gribben 제공/ 재판매 및 DB 금지]

(Seoul = Yonhap News) Reporter Eom Nam-seok = Humanity’s first planetary defense experiment will be conducted to prevent catastrophe caused by asteroid impacts such as the mass extinction of dinosaurs.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched a ”twin asteroid orbit’ on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 10:21 pm on the 23rd (3:21 pm Korean time) on the 23rd. The Crystal Test (DART) launches the spacecraft. At this time, if the launch fails due to unsuitable weather conditions, the launch window will open after 84 days.

The spacecraft is tasked with approaching and colliding with an asteroid flying towards Earth, to see if it can change its orbit with a ‘kinetic impactor’.

It’s not as good as breaking a hole in an asteroid rushing towards Earth like in the movie ‘Armageddon’ and detonating a nuclear bomb, but it has the meaning of conducting planetary defense experiments to protect the Earth for the first time in outer space.

While it is important to explore the solar system and search for extraterrestrial life, this experiment marks a milestone in the history of space development in that it finds a way to save mankind from potential extinction.

◇ The goal of the first collision test = The DART spacecraft weighs 620 kg and is the size of a small car. At the end of September next year, it approaches the soccer stadium-sized asteroid ‘Dimorphos’ and collides at a speed of 6.6 km/sec.

Dimorphus is also called ‘Didymoon’, orbiting ‘Didymos’ classified as a near-Earth object that approaches the Earth within 30 million miles (48 million km) like a satellite (moon) every 11.9 hours. It is analyzed whether there is a change in the orbital time due to the impact impact.

Didymos, which means ‘twins’ in Greek, is 780m in diameter, and Dimorphus, which means ‘two forms’, is about 160m in diameter.

These asteroids orbit the Sun every 2.11 years, and the collision will occur at a point about 11 million km from Earth.

Asteroid threatens to collide with Earth
Asteroid threatens to collide with Earth

[유럽우주국(ESA) 제공]

Currently, no asteroids of the size of Dimorphus or larger have been identified that pose a risk of colliding with Earth within 100 years. However, it has been pointed out that there is always a risk that a new asteroid will suddenly appear in the dark one day and threaten the Earth.

Dimorphos is unlikely to threaten Earth today or even after the DART spacecraft crash, but an asteroid of this size could detonate several nuclear bombs at once, causing hundreds of thousands of casualties. If the diameter of the asteroid is more than 300 m, the damage will reach a continental level, and if it is more than 1 km, it can affect the entire planet.

◇ How to Observe = The DART spacecraft unfolds solar panels and operates an electric propulsion system to orbit the sun and approaches Dimorphus using an autopilot and a camera.

A cosmic collision is predicted to reduce Dimorphus’ orbital speed by less than 1%. This can be measured with a telescope even from Earth in a matter of minutes.

When Dimorphus passes in front of Didymos as it orbits, it temporarily darkens by blocking the light reflected from Didymos, and this cycle repeats like a clock.

A single asteroid impact would change its orbit by only about 0.000006%, which would take years to measure, but can be quickly confirmed by Dimorphus, a moon that orbits Didymos twice a day.

Dr Andy Rivkin of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL) told BBC News that the current orbital time is measured at 11 hours 55 minutes, but after a collision test it could be 11 hours 45 minutes or 11 hours 20 minutes. did.

DART spaceship
DART spaceship

[NASA/John Hopkins APL 제공/ 재판매 및 DB 금지] [email protected]

However, since it is not known what the constituent substances of dimorphus are, the reaction after the collision is not certain.

In the vicinity of Dimorphos, the Italian space agency’s Cubesat ‘LICIACube’ records the crash site. This CubeSat will be separated from the DART spacecraft ten days before the collision, and then filmed the encounter and collision with Dimorphus and transmitted to Earth.

NASA plans to send the field probe HERA later in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA). It will launch in 2024 and arrive at the site in 2027 to observe the crash site in detail.

“I think we will learn a lot by completing these experiments and be more prepared for potential future threats,” said Laurie Glaze, NASA’s director of planetary science.

[email protected]

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