November 27, 2021 - 6:37 am

1st Test Mission To Defend The Earth

NASA's DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) the world's first full-scale mission to test technology for defending Earth against potential asteroid aur comment hazards, launched Wednesday on a spaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4 East at Vandentberg Space Force Base in California. It's goal is to slightly change the asteroid's motion in a way that can be accurately measured using ground-based telescopes.

                         In late September or early October of 2022, the 1210-pound (550 kg) DART spacecraft will slam into a small asteroid named Dimorphous, changing the space rocks orbit around its larger companion, Didymos. Astronomers will quantify that change causing the effectiveness of the "Kinetic impact" method of asteroid deflection - a strategy humanity might need to employ in the future against a rock that lines Earth up in its crosshairs.

                         Dimorphous does not pose any threat to earth and the mission is only to test the new technology. "Carrying out a real-world test on an asteroid with mostly unknown physical properties is a necessary next step to evaluate current models and advance them further to address potentially hazardous asteroids in the future." NASA says currently there are over 25,000 Near Earth objects and no known asteroid larger than 140m in size has a significant chance of hitting Earth for the next 100 years.

                         As things stand now, Outer Space Treaty, the cornerstone set of international space laws signed in the 1960s, prohibits replacement or use of nuclear weapons in space. The use of nuclear-tipped spacecraft against a killer asteroid would, therefore amount to a treaty violation. But should such a contingency arise, the UN Security Council can be expected to find a way around it.

                         If the DART is successful, NASA and other space agencies could in future have the option of using spacecraft to deflect an asteroid off-course - averting a potentially catastrophic collision with earth.