National Post (Latest Edition)

NASA TO SMASH OFF-COURSE ASTEROID WITH ROCKET

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1 FIRST TEST OF PLANETARY DEFENCE

NASA is set to smash a spacecraft into an asteroid at 15,000 mph in its first ever “planetary defence” test to see if it

will be able to prevent potentiall­y cataclysmi­c

future collisions and avoid a mass extinction

event like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs,

and most life on Earth, 66 million years ago. If successful, it will be the

first time humans have altered the path of a nonearth object in the solar

system, although the asteroid being targeted is not threatenin­g our

planet.

2 CRAFT POWERED BY SOLAR PANELS

Known as the Double

Asteroid Redirectio­n Test (DART), the mission does not include a crew.

The spacecraft will blast off on Nov. 23 on a

Spacex Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The spacecraft is about

the size of a golf buggy and powered by an array of solar panels. When it gets close to the asteroid, an autonomous navigation system will allow it to find and aim towards it, hitting it at a

speed of 14,763 mph.

3 DIMORPHOS AND DIDYMOS

NASA has selected Dimorphos, a small moon about the size of a

football stadium, which orbits around a half-mile wide asteroid called

Didymos. In September, both objects will pass within

seven million miles of Earth, meaning the collision can be observed

by astronomer­s. The collision is only expected

to change the speed of Dimorphos by less than

one per cent, but that will alter the time it takes to orbit Didymos by several minutes.

4 CAMERA WILL FILM COLLISION

An on-board camera called DRACO will film the impact, which is expected to create a bright

flash and then a plume of dust. Just before the crash the spacecraft will also release a satellite,

provided by the Italian Space Agency, which will record and send images

back to Earth. The mission mirrors the plot of the Hollywood

blockbuste­r Armageddon in which the space agency diverts an approachin­g asteroid.

In the film, a crew led by Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck saves the world

by landing on the giant rock and using a nuclear

bomb to split it apart.

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