On November 21, 2021, NASA launched the Double Asteroid Redirect Test (Dart) Spacecraft atop SpaceX Rocket to collide with Dimorphos, a smaller moonlet orbiting around a massive asteroid named Didymos. Upon launch, the American space agency estimated that DART will travel for months before reaching its destination. After months of exploring the vast nature of Space, the DART spacecraft is finally about to accomplish its primary mission.
NASA has officially announced that the DART Spacecraft will hit Dimorphos on September 26 at 7:14 p.m. ET to enable scientists to learn how to redirect asteroids in the future. This targeted asteroid does not stand as a threat to human civilization. However, the DART mission is a stepping stone toward defending our planet from a future potential hazardous asteroid or comet impact.
NASA experts in the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL) has been managing this mission ever since it commenced. These professionals have been controlling the spacecraft since launch, and they are hopeful that the spacecraft will successfully hit the target asteroid on the planned date. During a press briefing on September 22, NASA and JHUAPL experts that made up the DART team revealed that they are looking forward to the success of this mission after years of planning.
How the Dart Spacecraft will Collide with the Asteroid
Dimorphos is a smaller asteroid in a binary system with another asteroid named Didymos. Unlike Didymos with a diameter of about 780 meters (2,560 ft), Dimorphos is much smaller with a diameter of 170 meters (530 ft). NASA planned to clash the DART spacecraft following a kinetic impact process to change Dimorphos’ orbit around Didymos. Since both asteroids are gravitationally held together, DART’s Kinetic impact will not knock off Dimorphos completely out of Didymos’ orbit and fly endlessly into deep space.
Instead, the impact will create a slight change in the small asteroid’s orbit. But the impact will be powerful enough to adjust Dimorphos’ orbital period, thereby changing its gravitational effects on Didymos. Scientists reveal that this impact can change the trajectory of the two asteroids. However, the DART spacecraft will have to reach Dimorphos to create the impact.
Since the small asteroid is located about 7 million miles from Earth, the DART spacecraft has to travel for months before arriving at its destination. NASA designed the spacecraft to travel at the speed of 4.1 miles per second (6.6 km/s). The American Space Agency has earlier discovered that the DART spacecraft will crash into Dimorphos on September 26. Hence the American Space Agency began to prepare for this historic moment.
How to Watch DART Spacecraft Crash with Dimorphos
During the Kinetic impact of NASA’s DART Spacecraft, you will be opportune to watch it live online. NASA TV will commence with the live broadcast starting from 6 p.m ET on Monday, September 26. DART’s kinetic impact with Dimorphos is expected to occur at 7:14 p.m. ET. So, you should be prepared ahead of time if you want to witness our first planetary defense measure against asteroids. A few minutes before the impact, you should expect to see only the dark space, before the action finally takes place.
Despite DART spacecraft heading on a collision course with a near-earth asteroid, you cannot observe the impact with star gazing. This is because of the impact, which will occur at a distance of nearly 7 million miles from Earth. However, you can watch it online from Space.com, NASA TV, and other online space platforms. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will also watch the DART impact to give us a more detailed view of the collision.
What NASA Hopes to Achieve from DART Mission Collision with Dimorphos
For years, asteroid and comet impact has continued to crash into other celestial bodies in space. Earth is not excluded from this impact. In fact, an asteroid impact around 66 million years ago sent the dinosaurs to extinction. Hence, space agencies are beginning to see the need of establishing a planetary defense mechanism against asteroid impact in the future.
NASA launched the DART mission to learn how we can establish a planetary defense against future asteroid impacts. During the September 22nd press briefing, NASA and JHUAPL scientists reveal how the DART mission will benefit humanity. Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA, reveals that the DART mission will create a new history for humanity.
“This is an exciting time, not only for the agency, but for space history and the history of humankind,” Johnson state. “It’s quite frankly the first time that we are able to demonstrate that we have not only the knowledge of the hazards posed by these asteroids and comets that are left over from the formation of the solar system, but also have the technology that we could deflect one from a course inbound to impact the Earth. So this demonstration is extremely important to our future.”
Other scientists, also shared their thoughts about how the impact will benefit humanity. You can see more from space.com.
What Next for Humanity?
DART Spacecraft is about to unlock a new goal for humanity. The success of this mission will determine how will defend our planet from a future asteroid impact. China is currently building the world’s biggest radar system to detect asteroids before they collide with Earth. The primary goal of these missions is to ensure that humanity is safe from future hazardous asteroid impacts. If we can defend our planet against asteroid impacts, we will begin to work toward solving other complex challenges facing humanity. What do you think about this DART impact with Dimorphos?