The mission to deflect an asteroid hurtling towards the Earth to test a planetary defence mechanism will be executed on Monday. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) – managed by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory for NASA – is in its final phase. A spacecraft sent by scientists will crash into Dimorphos, its targeted asteroid. The strike will take place at 7.14pm EDT on September 26 (4.44am IST on September 27). The cube-shaped “impactor” vehicle, roughly the size of a vending machine will fly into the football stadium-sized asteroid about 11 million km from Earth.
It is to be noted that the asteroid doesn’t pose any threat to our planet, and the mission’s outcome is also not going to change that, it will test the ability of a spacecraft to alter an asteroid’s trajectory with sheer kinetic force, plowing into the object at high speed to nudge it astray just enough to keep our planet out of harm’s way.
How to watch the impact?
The spacecraft being used for the DART mission has its own camera, which means people will be able to watch along the action, though slightly behind time.
NASA will begin the coverage of DART impact at 6pm EDT (3.30am IST).
This is our scientists’ first attempt to change the motion of an asteroid, or any celestial body.
About the DART mission
DART, launched by a SpaceX rocket in November 2021, has made most of its voyage under the guidance of NASA’s flight directors. The control will be handed over to an autonomous on-board navigation system in the final hours of the journey.
The mission’s celestial target is an asteroid “moonlet” about 560 feet in diametre that orbits a parent asteroid five times larger called Didymos as part of a binary pair with the same name, the Greek word for twin.
The plan is for DART to fly directly into Dimorphos at 24,000 kmph, bumping it hard enough to shift its orbital track closer to its larger companion asteroid.