NASA has indicated that the first-ever mission designed at deflecting an asteroid from orbit to demonstrate its potential use for Planetary Defense is set for the year 2022. The U.S space agency said that the first target for its DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) is an asteroid set in making a distant approach of Earth in 2022 and again in 2024. NASA reported on its website that the launch window for the mission will take place between December 2020 and May 2021.
The target asteroid “Didymos” is 800 meters across with a secondary body of 150 meters. NASA also mentioned that this is more typical of the size of asteroids that could pose a more common hazard to Earth. NASA’s planetary defense officer, Lindley Johnson said in a statement, “DART would be NASA’s first mission to demonstrate what’s known as the kinetic impactor technique, striking the asteroid to shift its orbit to defend against a potential future asteroid impact”.
NASA’s plan to deflect an asteroid is to crash a spacecraft moving 3.7 miles per second into it if the mission didn’t sound cool enough on the surface. NASA said this collision will be enough to change the speed of its secondary body enough to change its orbit around the main body by a fraction of a percent. The European Space Agency also reported that Hera is one of its spacecrafts and it will accompany NASA’s DART mission. The ESA issued a news release on Jan 9 that its Hera spacecraft will be accompanied by 2 CubeSats. They are versatile data-recording satellites and small enough to fit inside a briefcase.
The mission’s investigation co-lead, Andy Cheng said on NASA’s website, “DART is a critical step in demonstrating we can protect our planet from a future asteroid impact. Since we don’t know that much about their internal structure or composition, we need to perform this experiment on a real asteroid. We can show how to protect Earth with DART from an asteroid strike with a kinetic impactor by knocking the hazardous object into a different flight path that would not threaten the planet”.