How to Change an Asteroids Trajectory

How to Change an Asteroids Trajectory

Do you think it’s possible to change an asteroid’s trajectory? With its Double Asteroid Redirection Test last month, NASA proved you can.

Double Asteroid Redirection Test

DART stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, a NASA spacecraft designed to hit an asteroid for testing. Dimorphos, DART’s target asteroid, does not pose a threat to Earth, however, the Didymos asteroid system provides the perfect opportunity to test whether it is practical to crash a spacecraft into an asteroid to alter its course if an asteroid poses a threat to Earth in the future.

The DART’s Focus

As the first mission of its kind, DART explores one method of deflecting asteroid motion through kinetic impact. Essentially, the purpose of the DART is to observe the response of an asteroid following a kinetic impact. Earth-based telescopes will measure the asteroid’s motion after the collision with Dimorphos.

Image courtesy of NASA

The Results

DART’s kinetic impact with Dimorphos, its target asteroid, was successful on September 26th. After studying the data from the test for two weeks, NASA confirmed the successful change of Dimorphos’ orbit. This marks humanity’s first attempt at changing the motion of a celestial object on a large scale.

New Rotation

Dimorphos took 11 hours and 55 minutes to orbit its larger parent asteroid, Didymos, before DART’s impact. Using telescopes on Earth, astronomers have measured how much time has changed since DART collided with Dimorphos on Sept. 26. According to the investigation team, the spacecraft’s impact shortened Dimorphos’ orbit around Didymos by 32 minutes, shortening its 11 hours and 55-minute orbit to 11 hours and 23 minutes. An error margin of about 2 minutes is essential for this measurement.

The minimum successful orbital change for Dimorphos before its encounter was 73 seconds. Using these early results, DART outperformed this benchmark by over 25 times.

Final Thoughts

Neither Dimorphos nor Didymos posed any hazard to Earth before or after DART’s controlled collision. Does this test sound like science fiction? Maybe the movie Armageddon needs to be updated. Let me know in the comments.

 

Until next time
Frankie

Images courtesy of NASA.

Asteroid Strikes: When Fiction Meets Reality

Asteroid Strikes: When Fiction Meets Reality

Are you worried about an asteroid strike? On Wednesday NASA sent a probe into space on a head-on collision with an asteroid named Dimorphos. The purpose of this historic mission is to see whether a high-speed impact could nudge a near-earth object (asteroid or comet) off course if it was going to hit Earth. This sounds more like a sequel to the movie Armageddon than real life.

Double Asteroid Redirection Test

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, otherwise known as DART, is the first mission to test new technology. Built by John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, its goal is to change the asteroid’s motion slightly in a way that ground-based telescopes can measure it. According to NASA’s administrator Bill Nelson, “DART is turning science fiction into science fact….”

DARTs one-way mission will show that an unmanned spacecraft can navigate to a target asteroid and intentionally collide with it using a method of deflection called kinetic impact. The target is Dimorphos, a 160 meters (530 feet) wide moonlet within the Didymos asteroid system. The DART won’t target the asteroid system until September or October 2022 when it comes closer to Earth when it will then slam into the Dimorphos at 6 kilometres (4 miles) per second. Until then, it will circle the sun. You can read NASA’s full report here.

Asteroid belt in space; Asteroid strikes

Created in Canva.

Apophis

Apophis is one of the more hazardous asteroids that could impact Earth. Discovered in 2004, the estimated width is 340 meters (1,100 feet). It was originally due to pass close to earth in 2029, then it moved to 2035 and now it is 2068, although the chance has lessened. In fact, NASA doesn’t expect a significant impact in the next 100 years. That is good news.

Hollow Edge

If you have read my book, Hollow Edge, you know that the setting is the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, a military base inside the mountain designed to survive natural disasters, civil disorder, an electromagnetic pulse, nuclear war, or attacks like cyber, chemical, or radiological. Or in my novel, an asteroid. I used Apophis as the basis for my asteroid, Attila.

Hollow Edge picks ups 118 years after the asteroid decimated the planet, but the prequel Edge of Existence tells the story of the impending asteroid attack. It deals with two protagonists, and how they cope with learning the news of Attila. It will be available on Amazon soon, if you are interested in reading it.

Related story: Writing Hollow Edge

Hollow Edge book on a white background

Final Thoughts

It seems like reality is becoming science fiction. I wonder if the early science fiction writers ever thought that some of their ideas would become reality. Are you worried about an asteroid strike? Let me know in the comments.

 

Until next time

Frankie

 

Feature image by Michael L. Hiraeth from Pixabay