JAKARTA, NNC - NASA's plan to launch a super-advanced spacecraft capable of colliding into an asteroid to deflect its collision coiurse with Earth has now entered the final stages.
The space agency regulates the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) system to save the planet. DART will be launched into space in 2020.
DART is set to target the binary asteroid Didymos to test the system, after approval from NASA late last month. Although the egg-shaped target, also known as 'Didymoon', is only 160 meters tall, the test will highlight whether the technique could be used to deflect a much larger asteroid that threatens to eradicate human civilization.
The DART system is being designed, built and managed by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. The mission with Asteroid Deflection and Assessment (Aida) will crash an investigation into the two smallest binary asteroids to test whether the object's path can be changed by the spacecraft.
The space agency can only hope to reduce the impact of the asteroid by issuing evacuation orders to protect lives on Earth.
"With DART, we want to understand the nature of asteroids by seeing how a representative body reacts when impacted, with an eye toward applying that knowledge if we are faced with the need to deflect an incoming object," said Andrew Rivkin, who co-leads the DART investigation with APL's Andrew Cheng, citing the Daily Mail on Monday, Sept 17.
"In addition, DART will be the first planned visit to a binary asteroid system, which is an important subset of near-Earth asteroids and one we have yet to fully understand."
DART will use what is known as a 'kinetic crashing technique', which hits an asteroid to shift its orbit. The impact will change the speed of an asteroid by a fraction of the total speed.