A probe sent by the US space agency (NASA) deliberately hit an asteroid to change its orbit – the first test of its kind to test ways to protect the Earth from potentially dangerous space objects, the world agencies reported, cited by BTA .
The historic experience was shown live on NASA’s website.
The DART probe (DART, short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, i.e. Test for the redirection of a double asteroid. In English the word “dart” means “arrow”) crashed into the asteroid Dimorphos (Dimorph) at 2:14 a.m. Bulgarian time today with speed of about 24 thousand kilometers per hour. Then NASA teams at the control center in Maryland erupted in cheers.
A few minutes earlier, the distant, small asteroid, which does not pose any danger to our planet, gradually began to enlarge in the footage broadcast live by the kamikaze probe. From a moment on, the small pebbles on the gray surface of Dimorphos were clearly visible. The live broadcast was interrupted at the time of the explosion.
“We have entered a new era in which we are potentially able to protect ourselves from a dangerous” asteroid impact, said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Sciences Division.
Dimorphos is about 160 meters in diameter and is located approximately 11 million kilometers from Earth. In fact, it is a satellite of another, larger asteroid – Didymos (Didymus), around which it orbited so far for 11 hours and 55 minutes. The purpose of the test is to change its orbit – slightly, but enough so that this method can be used to save the Earth from a potentially fatal collision with an asteroid.
According to NASA’s design, Dimorphos should be “nudged” slightly towards Didymos – that is, its orbit should be reduced by less than one percent, or 10 minutes.
However, it will take between several days and weeks before scientists can confirm that the experiment was successful. This must be done with the help of telescopes on Earth.
The probe took off 10 months ago from the US Air Force base “Vandenberg” in the state of California on a rocket carrier “Falcon 9” of the company “SpaceX” of the billionaire Elon Musk.
While the goal remains modest compared to the catastrophic scenarios of sci-fi movies like “Armageddon,” this “planetary defense” mission is testing a method for neutralizing a potentially dangerous asteroid for the first time, AFP noted. It is believed that the dinosaurs became extinct 66 million years ago precisely after the Earth collided with a large asteroid with a diameter of about 10 kilometers.
So far, there is no direct danger to our civilization.
Earth’s orbit intersects with that of nearly 30,000 asteroids of all sizes. At this time, it is believed that none of them will threaten our planet in the next one century. However, not all asteroids have been studied, notes AFP.
Scientists have detected almost all of them with a diameter of one kilometer and more. However, this only applies to 40 percent of asteroids 140 meters in diameter and above, and they are capable of devastating an entire region.
“Our most important task is to find” these missing asteroids, said Lindley Johnson of NASA’s Planetary Sciences Division. He argues that the sooner they are detected, the more time humanity will have to find a way to protect itself.
“This is a very exciting time … for the history of space exploration and even for the history of humanity,” said the NASA scientist. He identified DART’s mission as a key first step in this direction.