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On Wednesday morning, SpaceX in conjunction with NASA ran a defence project which is the first of its kind by intentionally sending a spacecraft on its way to the asteroid. The program tagged DART is a defence mission that is poised towards creating a shield on earth.
Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s science mission directorate associate administrator said they want to learn how the agency could be able to deflect a threat that is coming to earth. Though he revealed that the current rock is not a threat to earth. The project is geared towards making the planet safer so if there is ever a case of a rogue asteroid coming to Earth, NASA could easily use a spacecraft like DART to redirect its trajectory away from us.
Omar Baez, the senior launch director at NASA couldn’t hide his excitement about the project. In his words “We’re smashing into an asteroid. I can’t believe we’re doing that.” The launch would be with a Falcon 9 rocket at California, Vandenberg Space Force Base with a liftoff window that started at 1:20 a.m Wednesday.
The NASA spacecraft weighs 610 kilograms and will take 10 months to reach the asteroids, Didymos and Dimorphos. DART’s hardware components were built and designed by Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and its navigation systems were made by Rewire. NASA’s objective is to make contact with Dimorphos and watch how its trajectory changes.
In layman terms, both small asteroids Dimorphos and Didymos are of the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza and One World Trade Center tower in New York. Before DART makes contact with Dimorphos, it will take photos of the impact.
DART, which moves at 15,000 mile per hour, isn’t entirely cheap as it costs the US space agency about $330 million. The project remains NASA’s first planetary mission and SpaceX first planetary launch.
While showing appreciation in the press conference, Julianna Scheiman, SpaceX director said, “This is just the coolest mission. Thank you all for enabling SpaceX to be a part of a really important planetary defence mission.”
Additionally, Zurbuchen feels confident the mission will improve and strengthen Earth’s defences. While there are billions of asteroids orbiting the sun, the chances of them coming to earth are slim. He continued that none of these asteroids could pose a threat to earth for the next century or so.
Just recently, Elon Musk revealed that SpaceX could be launching its first orbital starship flight in the first quarter of the coming year. This would continue with the firm’s tradition of groundbreaking space mission.