Asteroids have long been a cause for concern on planet Earth – but NASA is ready to change that. Innovative researchers have recently announced plans to attack a mysterious asteroid head-on in hopes of protecting humankind in the long run. Here’s how…
As NASA announced, asteroid scientists will be attacking a stadium-sized asteroid in only a matter of time. But while the thought alone might sound alarming, there's actually good reason for their potentially dangerous move: to prevent the same fate dinosaurs once faced millions of years ago.
"The dinosaurs didn’t have a space program, so when an asteroid headed toward Earth with their name on it 65 million years ago, they had no warning and no way to defend themselves," MIT Technology Review explained. In ambushing the rocky fragments, scientists hope to further understand how asteroids operate and prevent any future catastrophes on our planet.
As for how they'll carry out their mission? In November of this year, NASA will be launching Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). The car-sized spacecraft was designed by researchers at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory with one goal in mind: to attack Dimorphos, a 160-meter sized asteroid, at 6.6 kilometers per second. "After separation from the launch vehicle and over a year of cruise, it will intercept Didymos’ moonlet in late September 2022," NASA reported.
And while scientists still aren't sure what the results of the attack might look like, they have some ideas. As they announced, the energy formed upon the collision is predicted to be equivalent to three tons of TNT (trinitrotoluene, a compound normally used as an explosive) erupting. Sometime after the collision, Hera, a European Space Agency mission, will arrive upon the scene to check firsthand the results of the experiment.
"We’re doing this to have the ability to prevent a truly catastrophic natural disaster," Tom Statler, a DART program scientist at NASA, explained of the innovative experiment. Until then, be sure to stay tuned while this story continues to develop.