NASA has a release date for most of the Hollywood missions, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, which is basically a dry run for the movie «Armageddon.» Unlike the movie, this will not include nuclear bombs, oil rigs, or AerosmithInstead, it is a practical test of our ability to alter the path of an asteroid in a significant and predictable way.
The DART mission, operated by the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (!), involves sending a pair of satellites to a relatively close pair of asteroids, known as the Didymus binary. It is one large asteroid, about 780 meters wide — this is proper Didymus — and a 160-meter «moon» in its orbit.
Since a young moon is more common than the type likely to threaten Earth — there are more asteroids this large and not easily noticeable — we will test the possibility of intercepting one by smashing it at 15,000 miles per hour. This will change the velocity of the small moon by a fraction of a percentage, but it is enough for the period of its orbit to be affected measurably. Knowing exactly how much will help us plan for any future asteroid deflection missions — it’s no surprise that there isn’t a lot of current science about your spacecraft crashing into space rocks.
An accompanying spacecraft, called the Light Italian CubeSat for Imagine Asteroids, or LICIACube, just has Put the finishing touches to it Last week it will be launched shortly before the operation and will attempt to fly at the same moment of impact and capture «the resulting ejector shaft and possibly the newly formed impact crater.»
A very interesting and exciting mission for sure, but it had to be postponed after this summer’s original launch window, and November 23 marks the first day of the new launch window. DART is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg in Southern California at 10:20 p.m. on that date, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9.
With Osiris-Rex and Japan Hayabusa 2 Missions, Earth powers have become very good at reaching and touching asteroids. We’ll learn more about the Didymos duo’s attack plan in the lead up to launch.