National Post (Latest Edition)
NASA TO SMASH OFF-COURSE ASTEROID WITH ROCKET
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
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.