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"Planetary defense on-line, Admiral". NASA D.A.R.T. Mission Success


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Yup, the data is in and we humans did it; Who-Hoo!

"The DART mission, a full-scale demonstration of deflection technology, was the world’s first conducted on behalf of planetary defense. The mission was also the first time humanity intentionally changed the motion of a celestial object in space."  (CNN, link below)

It is really worth taking a moment and considering what we humans did; we launched a rocket from the surface of the Earth, calculated successfully where it needed to go, set it on its path and had it travel for about 10 months to hit a (relatively) small object and change its trajectory. And, we took selfies as we did it.

Damn! Just thinking about the precision calculations required gives me a headache.

So, are humans safe from objects in space slamming into the planet and causing an extinction event on par with the dinosaurs? Well, no. Not yet.

First, we will need to upgrade our detection capacities and my (non-scientist) view is that we will probably need some kind of sensor array in the outer system (Orbit of Jupiter? Sci-Fi novels suggest this) for earlier detection and for triangulation.

Next, we will need to monitor both asteroids closer to the sun and asteroids which are too small for us at the moment. The smaller ones might not be 'Planetary Extinction Level', but were one to hit... Lagos or Chongqing, millions and millions and millions would die. Moreover, while we can get a good look at threats from Earth's orbit looking out, we don't do as well looking into/towards the sun. Yes, just like in all those WW2 movies, when an asteroid comes at us with the sun at its back, we won't see it until too late. 

Finally, the DART Mission used kinetic energy (smashed into it) to alter the trajectory of the asteroid, but that wouldn't work with a larger asteroid or one not detected until it was too close. What might be needed in that case? A la movie Armageddon, the answer is nukes. However, how happy would you be if the US or Russia or China announced that they were sending nuclear bombs into space 'to protect the planet?' Answer; I don't think anyone would be too happy.

All in all, still a bit of a mixed bag. It was an incredible achievement to hit the asteroid and change its trajectory, but we also need to remember that more work needs to be done to ensure we don't go the way of the dinosaurs. 

Some reading...






PS I have said this before, but... Those members who are interested in space should bookmark www.Space.com; it is an excellent site for Space Junkies.



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  • 4 months later...


It has been about six months since the DART mission, and that is a good timeframe for what military types call an 'After Action' report.

What was the DART mission? Sciencealert.com notes...

"In September of last year, after years of careful planning and development, NASA crashed a spacecraft smack into a rock drifting through the Solar System, just minding its own business.

It wasn't for the sheer hatred of space rocks, or the joy of collisions; the motive behind this exercise was to test our ability to knock an asteroid off-course, in the interest of Earth's safety. And now we know we're onto something. The measurements have come in, and the rock's course changed by significantly more than expected.

A series of five papers describing this course deflection, and the mechanisms behind it, have been published in Nature." (link below)

The mission was a huge success, but any scientific endeavour worth its name needs to re-visited to see if what we thought we learned was correct, and to have another look with fresh eyes to see if we missed anything.

Universetoday.com (link below) has a review of the mission complete with a movie made by NASA; it must be said that the movie doesn't... make you wiggle to the edge of your seat, but it is short and interesting. However, the best write-up is from, not unexpectedly since it was their mission, NASA (link below). The NASA site notes;

"The DART mission employed an asteroid-deflection technique known as a “kinetic impactor,” which in simplest terms means smashing a thing into another thing — in this case, a spacecraft into an asteroid. From the data, the DART investigation team, led by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, found that a kinetic impactor mission like DART can be effective in altering the trajectory of an asteroid, a big step toward the goal of preventing future asteroid strikes on Earth. These findings were published in four papers in the journal Nature."

Depending on your interest, there are several papers published today in Nature (link below) which go into more detail on more specific areas.

Who-Hoo! Love the Space Stuff! Enjoy the last few seconds of DART...







Images from Google

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