NASA has been exploring whether crashing a satellite into an asteroid may change its course since 2017, seeking SpaceX’s assistance in the process in 2019. The rocket business said today that it has completed a static fire test and that the Double Asteroid Redirection Test will launch on November 21st (DART).
At 10:21pm PT that day, NASA will “intentionally crash the DART spacecraft into an asteroid to see if that is an effective way to change its course, should an Earth-threatening asteroid be discovered in the future.” SpaceX said in a tweet.
A static fire test is one of several procedures in preparing a launch vehicle for deployment. It checks engine startup performance by measuring pressure and temperature, among other things. With this stage completed, SpaceX and NASA appear to be on track to begin work next week.
DART is aiming for Didymos, a binary asteroid with two bodies (the Greek word for “twin”). Didymos B is 160 metres (174 yards) in diameter, and it orbits Didymos A, which is 780 meters in size. The double asteroid would have safely passed Earth in 2022 and 2024 if it hadn’t been on pace to collide with our planet.
However, NASA has identified at least 23 asteroids that could collide with Earth in the next 100 years. Coming up with a defence strategy is critical to ensuring humanity’s survival if Armageddon ever approaches.
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