NASA made a decision to redirect the asteroid

NASA made a decision to redirect the asteroid

NASA made a decision to redirect the asteroid

Humanity is now struggling against the novel Coronavirus. Along with its six picture-snapping Italian Space Agency cubesats, the mission will also send a follow-up ESA spacecraft named Hera to definitively answer if we can manipulate the trajectory of Earth-bound asteroids.

The upcoming mission is known as the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). The so-called first planetary defense mission is to be launched in 2021 to demonstrate asteroid deflection by the kinetic impact. DART is powered by an ion engine, called NASA's Evolutionary Xenon Propeller - Commercial (NEXT-C). Those changes are expected to alter Didymos B's period of rotation, allowing ground-based telescopes to detect space rock.

The NEXT-C flight thruster is mounted within a thermal shroud in one of NASA Glenn's vacuum chambers. It has already passed the vibration test, which simulates launch conditions and withstand temperatures of spaceflight.

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But to pull this off, the DART mission is going to need some serious horsepower to get it to the Didymos system, which lies 6.8 million miles from Earth. Although the asteroid and its moon, Didymoon (Didymos in Greek means twins, hence the name of the system after the discovery of the small moon in 2003), are not yet endangering the Earth, they are flawless for testing the defenses. The agency will send DART to a small binary asteroid system called Didymos, which has a pair of space rocks, called Didymos A, almost 780 meters in diameter, and Didymos B, about 160 meters. The goal of DART is to crash itself into the Didymoon since it is close to the typical size of an asteroid that could threaten the Earth. In its previous tests, NASA recorded the highest total boost of any ion engine when the engine reached 17 MN · s. NASA will send DART to the Didymos asteroid system along with some satellites. NEXT-C can produce 6.9 kW thrust power and uses ion drives to move the machine in the space. Different from a rocket, it doesn't require a lot of thrusts to lift something away from Earth's gravity. This propels them out of the engine, providing thrust.

According to the space agency, the impact will leave a 20-meter wide crater on the asteroid's surface that will change its orbital velocity by half a milimeter per second. The mission of the DART includes a test of the double asteroid redirection, and its beginning is scheduled for the end of July next year.

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