Science fiction begins to become reality with NASA’s DART mission. The US space agency and its commercial allies conducted the first test launch of a spacecraft project to deflect an asteroid. The idea is, as the same organizations describe it, to execute a “planetary defense” against the threat of impact from a gigantic rock.
In this sense, NASA sent DART on a SpaceX rocket early this Wednesday, November 24 (night of the 23rd for South America). The destination is to impact or push a small asteroid called Dimorphos, which orbits a larger one named Didymos.
Neither of these two rocky bodies pose a threat to the planet. And in principle, the idea is only to slightly move its trajectory; enough for ground-based telescopes to notice the change in your space transit.
The spacecraft is the size of a golf cart and will travel to the aforementioned asteroid which is located more than 9.6 million kilometers away. The impact is scheduled to occur in 10 months. The scientists will then observe if any possible alteration occurs in the asteroid’s trajectory.
DART First Steps
The US space agency reported that after the spacecraft entered the planet’s orbit, it separated from the SpaceX rocket. Minutes later, mission operators received the first telemetry data from the spacecraft.
This is the starting point to begin the process of orienting the spacecraft to a safe position to deploy its solar panels.
The aforementioned mechanism lasted about two hours and NASA confirmed that the panels have already been successfully deployed. The power supply method is about 8.5 meters long and will be responsible for generating evolutionary xenon propulsion, a kind of commercial ion engine that is being tested as a new technology in this type of space mission.
“DART is turning science fiction into science fact and is a testament to NASA’s proactivity and innovation for the benefit of all. In addition to all the ways NASA studies our universe and our home planet, we are also working to protect that home, and this test will help demonstrate a viable way to protect our planet from a dangerous asteroid if it is ever discovered to be it’s heading toward Earth, “said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
In the video we share below, there are the moments of the launch broadcast by the official SpaceX channel on YouTube.