NASA's DART mission is out to save us from deadly asteroids
NASA's DART mission is out to save us from deadly asteroids
8:10

NASA's DART mission is out to save us from deadly asteroids

Science
Speaker 1: If a deadly asteroid was heading towards earth, would we be able to knock it off course and prevent an apocalyptic impact? Well, this spacecraft could soon find out it's called dart and scientists are going to deliberately crash it into an asteroid and knock it out of its orbit. All in the hope of testing our planetary defense systems, Speaker 1: Dart stands for double asteroid redirection [00:00:30] test, and it pretty much does what it says on the tin. In late 2022, this spacecraft will arrive at a binary asteroid currently orbiting outside Earth's orbit. Then it will smash into one of those asteroids at roughly 24,000 kilometers or 15,000 miles per hour to try and knock it out of its orbit. It's the brainchild of the Johns Hopkins applied physics laboratory, which built the [00:01:00] spacecraft to test planetary defense technology. According to Nancy, Shabo the coordination lead at Johns Hopkins APL. The concept is fairly simple, but this technology could one day save the earth. Speaker 2: A lot of times, I like to just lead with what the mission is actually doing, which is we are purposely crashing a spacecraft into a, an asteroid to move it a little bit. But I mean, asteroids have been hitting the earth for billions of years, right? So that's not new. That's something that we know [00:01:30] about, right? But we're getting to the point where we can take these steps to potentially prevent that from happening in the future. And that's where dart comes in Speaker 1: For this asteroid deflection test scientists have chosen to crash into an asteroid. Moonlet called dimorphic. It's about 160 meters or 520 feet in diameter. And it orbits a larger asteroid called Dimus, which is about 780 meters or half a mile in diameter. There a binary pair, [00:02:00] hence the double asteroid in the dark name, D amorphous orbits around Dimus. And both of them orbit around the sun every two years. And in that orbit, they go from being out past Mars to coming nice and close to earth. Well, relatively speaking, when dart intercept Dimus, these two asteroids will still be about 11 million kilometers from earth. So to answer your big question, no, these aren't [00:02:30] Armageddon asteroids, and there's no risk of them crashing into us, but that doesn't mean that we can't crash into them. After launching on its SpaceX, Falcon nine, rocket dart will cruise through space using its massive rollout, solar arrays for power. Then when it gets up close in September of 2022, it will use its autonomous smart nav system and an onboard camera to identify dimorphic and navigate [00:03:00] towards it for what's called a kinetic impact, kind of like a game of pool, one ball knocking into another. But in this game of pool, the dart is a hundred times smaller than the next ball made of rock. It's flying through space and it's guided by robotics. Oh, and it's going really, really Speaker 2: Fast in order to deflect it even a little bit. You have to be going pretty fast. And so it is going fast. It's going 15,000 miles per hour, right? But that means that like [00:03:30] one hour ahead of time, it's 15,000 miles away from an object that's only 160 meters, less than two football fields. Right? I mean, and so, and it's at actually only in this last hour, even using this great telescope that we have on the spacecraft, um, that you can see as different points of light demo. Morphoses from di Debos before that, in the images, it just looks like a single point of Speaker 1: Light. Once the spacecraft gets up close and makes its final corrections darts onboard camera will take one picture you every [00:04:00] second, which we'll get to see back here on earth. Then dart will complete its final mission crashing into the asteroid. The APL team has done loads of modeling to see how the impact would go down based on different asteroid shapes and materials. And the data taken from dart will help scientists to refine these models even more to know how future asteroid deflection missions might actually work. Okay. The final collision [00:04:30] won't be a giant ball of fire like you see in the movies, but at this scale it's still gonna be pretty cool. Speaker 2: De mofos is about the size of the grape pyramids and the dart space is about the size of a small golf cart. So basically you're writing a small golf cart into the great pyramids, clearly not gonna disrupt it or blow it up into a ton of little pieces. But you know, you might make Speaker 1: A bent. The APL team will be watching for how much debris or ejecta gets emitted from the impact. But [00:05:00] big question, if the dart gets completely totaled during the crash, then how will we know the mission has worked? Well, the spacecraft will actually be carrying a small cube set developed by the Italian space agency called lit cube lit cube will separate from dart 10 days before impact and quietly ultra its course to fly past dimorphic three minutes after Dart's glorious crash, it'll capture pictures of the ejector. [00:05:30] And hopefully even the crater left behind telescopes here on earth will also be watching what happens. The impact is only expected to change dimorphic orbit speed by a fraction of 1%, but that will be enough for telescopes here on earth to be able to observe. And hopefully this data will help us prepare in case a deadlier asteroid comes our way and not to scare you, but they [00:06:00] could be out there. Speaker 2: The good news is that asteroids that are a kilometer are larger. We found over 90% of that population. We're tracking those. None of those are a threat in the future. Um, but it's this in between sort of population of a few hundred meters that really people are focused on for planetary defense is the highest priority. And that's because something like the size of Dart's target demo, if it was to hit the earth would cause regional devastation, it would be tens to hundreds of kilometers. Um, just [00:06:30] wiped out small. You know, if it was over an urban area could be very devastating. Um, and this population of a few hundreds of meter size object, we actually have found less than half of that population. Currently Speaker 1: Less than half of the deadly asteroids. We only know where less than half are yet. Suddenly this mission became a lot more critical. We don't have any asteroids posing, an imminent threat right now, this mission is going to help us work out [00:07:00] how we could deflect an asteroid if we detected a threat in the future. And that's the idea behind planetary defense. It's not just about knocking threats out of the sky. It's about tracking objects like asteroids and comments and hunting down new threats a long before they become a problem. And frankly, that reality is pretty cool. Sure. You don't need to go full sci-fi movie and nuke asteroids out of the skies. They starting towards [00:07:30] the earth, but if we can detect threats ahead of time and then send up a spacecraft to knock them slightly out of orbit, well, that's enough to change the orbital physics and potentially protect the planet. And of course we still get a bit of demolition Derby action along the way. So win-win all right. I wanna hear what you have to say about the dart mission. Is it as cool as a sci-fi movie? For me, it kind of is because it's actually real. Let, let me know in the comments below [00:08:00] while you're here, make sure you like and subscribe because we always have plenty of exciting space news, just like this to share with you. Thanks for watching.

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