In a plan straight out of a sci-fi film, NASA will be deliberately crashing the Dart robot spacecraft into an asteroid in order to determine whether the collision can change the latter’s course. The target of this test is the asteroid called Dimorphos and the spacecraft will crash into it while travelling four miles/sec.
In the past, a number of theories have been put forward which involved using an object to deviate any asteroid from its course. With this experiment, the scientists are looking to observe the exact effect that the collision will have and also how the debris in the space will react in case of a similar situation.
“We know asteroids have hit us in the past,” said Professor Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer at Queen’s University Belfast, according to a report in The Guardian. “These impacts are a natural process and they are going to happen in the future. We would like to stop the worst of them.
“The problem is that we have never tested the technology which will be needed to do that. That is the purpose of Dart,” Fitzsimmons, a member of Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, said.
The spacecraft is expected to collide with the asteroid on September 27.
“Dart’s target has been carefully chosen,” said Jay Tate, director of the National Near Earth Objects Information Centre in Knighton, Powys. “Dimorphos actually orbits another, bigger asteroid called Didymos, and the extent of the deflection caused by the crash will be easier to detect as astronomers have been carefully observing its path around the bigger asteroid.”
(With inputs from agencies)