Asteroid Heading Toward Earth, NASA Responds With This

Ten months after its launch, NASA's asteroid-deflecting DART spacecraft neared its target on Monday. This display will be a test of the world's first planetary defense system. This system was designed to prevent a potential doomsday collision with Earth.

The cube-shaped vehicle is roughly the size of a vending machine. It is outfitted with two rectangular solar arrays. It is on course to fly into the asteroid Dimorphos, which is as large as a football stadium.

The goal of the mission is to test the ability of spacecraft to alter an asteroid's path using just kinetic force. The idea is for it to nudge the asteroid astray just enough to put it off course of Earth.

This mission marks the first attempt to change the motion of an asteroid or any other celestial body.

DART was originally launched by a SpaceX rocket in November 2021. It has reportedly made the most of its voyage with guidance from NASA flight directors. In the final hours of the journey, control will be handed over to an autonomous onboard navigation system.

The technical term for the spacecraft's target is a “moonlet.” The moonlet is around 560 feet in diameter and currently orbits a parent asteroid that is five times larger than it.

The name of the parent asteroid is Didymos and the two asteroids are part of a binary pair with the same name, the Greek word for twin.

There are cameras mounted on the impactor and aboard a briefcase-sized mini craft that DART will release days in advance that will record the collision and send the images back to NASA. At its final approach, DART will transmit approximately one image per second.

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