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First Mission To Test Planetary Defense Technology: NASA’s DART Mission To Strike Asteroid Dimorphos

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First Mission To Test Planetary Defense Technology: NASA’s DART Mission To Strike Asteroid Dimorphos

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As part of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, NASA’s first test of planetary defence technologies, a spacecraft is planned to strike the asteroid moon Dimorphos in September of this year.

The impact of a DART spacecraft on its target could be much more serious than previously imagined, according to a new research modelling the potential impact.

A small moon ‘Dimorphos’ orbits the larger body ‘Didymos’ in a binary asteroid system that includes the asteroid Dimorphos. The two asteroids were selected as the target for NASA’s DART mission because they pose no threat to Earth.

Credit: NASA

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The new discovery is based on observations made by the Hayabusa2 asteroid sample-return mission of the Japanese space agency (JAXA), which the researchers claim demonstrates that asteroids might have a fairly loose inner structure. The simulations from the past, in contrast, largely presupposed that Dimorphos has a considerably more robust interior.

The Dimorphos-Didymos binary asteroids have been studied for a very long time, according to Chaitanya Giri, a Space Tech Consultant, and Didymos, the larger of the two, has “surface reflective properties that indicate it to be a stony (S-type) asteroid.” told Eurasian Times.

Now, S-type asteroids can also contain debris fields. The asteroid Itokawa, an S-type debris field, was visited by JAXA’s Hayabusa-2. It had a structure resembling a peanut with various densities, according to Giri.

Giri emphasised that it has frequently been assumed that the compositions of binary asteroids are similar, and on the basis of this, it is possible that Dimorphos, on which the DART mission will have an impact, may not be wholly distinct from Didymos.

SEE ALSO: NASA’s New Spacecraft Will Deliberately Collide Into An Asteroid

Dimorphos’ inner part is a jumble of debris, and Sabina Raducan’s modelling demonstrates that a DART spacecraft travelling at a speed of about 24,000 kph might totally distort the asteroid as well as deflect the target far more powerfully.

Given that Dimorphos is just about 165 metres broad, the impact of the DART probe on it won’t release a lot of material.

By altering the asteroid’s speed in space through kinetic impact, DART is the first mission of its kind to research and demonstrate planetary defence using this technique.

In 2042 and 2062, Didymos will approach the planet. The distinctions between Dimorphos before and after it will be observed by DART scientists or the future generation of scientists they promote.

Cover Image: NASA

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