Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Following recent concerns that the risk of dangerous Asteroid impacts may have been underestimated, NASA appears to be stepping up its plans to develop the capability to deflect inbound space rocks.
NASA DART MISSION LAUNCHES TO SEE IF IT CAN SHUNT AN ASTEROID AND SAVE US FROM ARMAGEDDON
The robot spacecraft launched as planned on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 10.20pm local pacific time from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast, about 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
The Dart mission will test Nasa’s ability to alter an asteroid’s trajectory with kinetic force – crashing a robot spacecraft into it at high speed and nudging the space boulder just enough to keep our planet out of harm’s way.
Dart’s target is an asteroid “moonlet” the size of a football stadium that orbits a much larger chunk of rock – about five times bigger – in a binary asteroid system named Didymos, the Greek word for twin.
The moonlet, called Dimorphos, is one of the smallest astronomical objects to receive a permanent name. But at 525 feet (160 km) in diameter, its size is typical among the known asteroids – rubble-like remnants left over from formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.
Scientists chose the Didymos system because its relative proximity to Earth and dual-asteroid configuration make it ideal to observe the results of the impact.
…Read more: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/nasa-dart-asteroid-launch-mission-b1963314.html
I’m glad someone is finally taking this problem seriously. City buster impactors or worse are extremely unlikely on human timescales, even if scientists are still discussing exactly where to put the decimal point. But unlikely is not zero risk – its worth a few million to ensure we have the capability to address such a threat if it arises.