NASA’s DART hits asteroid

DART spacecraft has hit an asteroid on September 27.

Key facts

  • DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) spacecraft hit the asteroid Dimorphos, which is orbiting around primary asteroid Didymos.
  • The mission has succeeded in deflecting the trajectory of the pair of space rocks.
  • The objective of this mission was to change the path of Dimorphos using the kinetic impact technique or kick technique.
  • The kinetic technique has the potential to prevent large asteroids from hitting the Earth by changing their trajectory.
  • While the auto-rickshaw-sized DART spacecraft weighed just 600 kg, Dimorphos, with the size equivalent to football stadium, is approximately 5 billion kg in mass.
  • The tiny DART spacecraft was able to crash at a very high speed of 23,760 km per hour.
  • This momentum was able to change the angular momentum of Dimorphos, making it speed up and move closer to Didymos.
  • This has reduced the orbital period and the time taken for Dimorphos to revolve around the primary asteroid.
  • The recent collision and its consequences are currently being observed by a high-resolution camera called DRACO (Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical navigation).
  • A toaster sized Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids (LICIACube), which was deployed two weeks before the impact, is hovering 50 km from the asteroid. It is currently observing the plume of debris ejected after the collision.

Significance of kick technique

The kick technique, besides providing defence against fatal asteroids travelling towards the Earth, also provides a potential for space mining. Rare earth elements are mined with a huge environmental impact. High penalty for polluting can make space mining a viable solution in the future. Kick technique can be used to move small asteroids into convenient positions for space mining. Rare earth elements are critical for the adoption of renewable energy technologies like electric vehicle, solar panels, wind turbines and energy storage devices.

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