A better DART mission for asteroid deflection? Know what NASA says | Tech News

A better DART mission for asteroid deflection? Know what NASA says

The NASA DART mission demonstrated single impact style event but a new paper is offering an intriguing and probably efficient and precise method in safeguarding Earth from potential asteroid impacts.

| Updated on: Dec 15 2023, 09:56 IST
NASA: DART Mission set to DEFLECT giant asteroid
DART mission
1/5 Apocalyptic movies like Deep Impact, Armageddon and Don't Look Up have always explored the ‘What Ifs’ of world destruction. Now, NASA is set to defend the planet against a very similar threat that is posed by asteroids. (Pixabay)
DART mission
2/5 The DART mission will cost a staggering $240 million. The aim of the mission is to smash a spacecraft into the Dimorphos asteroid to deflect it away from its path. While this asteroid in no way threatens Earth, the NASA asteroid mission is to carry out an experiment to gain greater knowledge as to what happens when a craft is crashed against a space rock. This knowledge will be used if an actual asteroid threatens to crash against the Earth. It will help avert an Armageddon on Earth and perhaps, even save humanity from extinction. (NASA)
DART mission
3/5 According to Financial Times, chief scientist at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, Andy Cheng, came up with the DART concept along with a senior researcher. Dr. Cheng said, “It feels very exciting — like a dream come true — for something we’ve been thinking about for 20 years to be actually happening." (Pixabay)
DART mission
4/5 The DART mission has already sent the main spacecraft to space in November, 2021. It includes a satellite made by the Italian Space Agency. Another spacecraft is set to launch by 2026, to measure the impact. (NASA)
DART mission
5/5 NASA said, "DART is the first-ever mission dedicated to investigating and demonstrating one method of asteroid deflection by changing an asteroid’s motion in space through kinetic impact." (Pixabay)
DART mission
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The research paper by Melamed and Heinsheimer introduces a concept of material ejection to gradually alter an asteroid's trajectory unlike NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). (NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab)

The threat of asteroids hitting the Earth is always present and scientists have been working for decades now to track them and to devise the methods to deflect them or otherwise neutralize any threat potential they may have. One of the methods is to alter the direction of the asteroids moving towards our planet. Although the chances of any asteroid hitting our planet are low, but the considering the devastating impact it can have, it is necessary to keep a track.

One such mission is NASA's DART mission. It was the first-ever mission by NASA whose main goal was to investigate and demonstrate a method of asteroid deflection by changing an its motion in space through kinetic impact. The first such impact was carried out by NASA in 2022. The analysis of data obtained by NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) investigation team showed the spacecraft's kinetic impact with the asteroid, Dimorphos and it amazingly, successfully altered the asteroid's orbit forever.

In the realm of asteroid deflection, the Hollywood-type narrative often involves high-speed impactors or detonating nuclear devices. However, a recent paper by Nahum Melamed and Tom Heinsheimer proposes a groundbreaking alternative that could prove to be more efficient and precise in safeguarding Earth from potential asteroid impacts. Know what this research paper says.

Asteroid deflection:

According to NASA, The traditional 'big bang' methods rely on a somewhat 'hit and hope' strategy. However, Melamed and Heinsheimer's innovative approach introduces a concept of material ejection to gradually alter an asteroid's trajectory. They have proposed centrifugal propulsion technique which involves landing a centrifuge and power supply on the asteroid's surface. This system would collect portions of the asteroid, eject them into space, and use the momentum transfer of the recoil to shift the asteroid's path away from Earth.

What sets this approach apart is its adaptability and precision. Unlike the single-impact strategies, the centrifugal propulsion technique allows for "ejection, measurement, and repetition." This ingenious process fine-tunes the asteroid's trajectory, offering a more controlled and targeted deflection. The landing site, asteroid spin, and velocity are all variables that can be factored in, allowing adjustments in the direction, timing, and mass of ejections.

The team behind this proposal believes that with just a few weeks of operation, their method could have deflected asteroids similar in size to Chelyabinsk asteroid and Tunguska asteroid. The approach could potentially redirect the trajectory of asteroid Bennu, a significant threat projected for the second half of the 22nd century, with just a few years of operation.

This novel technique not only enhances the efficiency of planetary defense but also introduces a level of flexibility that was previously unavailable. As we look to the future, this innovative approach can offer a more calculated and effective means of protecting our planet from the ever-present asteroid threats.

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First Published Date: 15 Dec, 09:23 IST