The asteroid Didymos and its moon are classified as potentially hazardous to Earth. Although NASA scientists are convinced that we are not in danger of a collision in the near future, they want to check whether the orbit of the celestial body can be changed by the force of the spacecraft. In just a few days, the DART probe will begin its mission to answer this question.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission begins. The rocket with the spaceship will go on its journey on Wednesday, November 24.
Asteroid with the moon
The target of the mission is the asteroid Didymos. It is an object classified as NEO – near-Earth asteroids. It is about 780 meters in diameter. Its solar orbit is exactly two years, 40 days and five hours. It’s a binary asteroid – Didymos has its natural satellite called Dimorphos. Didymos’ moon is also not very large, it is 160 meters in diameter. What’s more, the asteroid together with the moon is included in the PHA group, i.e. potentially dangerous asteroids.
It is for this reason that scientists developed the AIDA mission project, the aim of which is to send two space probes near the double asteroid. The first of the probes – DART – is to hit the asteroid’s moon in order to check if the spacecraft is able to change the course of the potentially threatening celestial body.
Collision planned for next year
Scientists reassure that even if the mission fails, the risk of the asteroid and Earth colliding is not great. First of all, they want to measure changes in the orbital relationship between the asteroid and its moon, which is to help determine if such a tactic would be effective in the event of a more likely threat to our planet.
The DART and Dimorphos collision is expected to occur between September 26 and October 1, 2022. The double asteroid will then be only 11 million kilometers from Earth.
DART will begin its voyage into space from the Vandenberg Space Force Base near Lompoc, California, thanks to the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. It will take place at 7.20 am our time.
Main photo source: NASA / JHUAPL