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.
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.
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.