NASA’s Asteroid Destroyer spacecraft will give us some dramatic visuals next week.
live show from outer space It would require a degree of coordination never seen before, such as the agency’s double-agency asteroid redirection test (Arrow) The probe is magnified towards the coil asteroid Young moon Demorphos on September 27 in an attempt to change its orbit around its parent body, the asteroid Didymus.
The broadcast will display images from DART’s DRACO instrument, the spacecraft’s only scientific instrument. (The acronym stands for “Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical navigation.”)
“The images of DRACO, I just want to stress it, are going to be absolutely stunning,” Nancy Chabot, head of DART coordination at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Research Laboratory, said during a press conference on September 12.
“You will come to an asteroid that no one has seen before,” Chabot continued. “You’ll see things that are tens of centimeters in size for that final image and then they’ll be cut out. I think that would be cool.”
Pictures will flow back to a land at a rate of one per second, and we’ll see them in real time via NASA the television. Officials predict that the real view will occur about two minutes before the collision, when the asteroid begins to fill the camera view. “We’re honestly very excited to see what it looks like,” said Michelle Chen, chief engineer for the DART algorithm known as SMART Nav.
Since Earth would be about seven million miles (11 million kilometers) from the asteroid pair upon impact, engineers cannot steer DART manually. Instead, SMART Nav will autonomously guide the spacecraft to the asteroid and get all systems ready for the major crash.
The goal is to get the spacecraft to discover the last four hours of its mission without anyone directing the way. With DRACO, the spacecraft will find its target, self-correct, and make its way to the surface of the Dimorphos in a one-way flight.
All of this is a valuable exercise of an asteroid deflection method called a kinematic collision. If some asteroid in the future is on a collision course with Earth, perhaps a collider like this can throw it out of the way. However, NASA officials have emphasized that there is no known asteroid threat to human civilization for at least the next 100 years, and scientists are constantly conducting searches to verify this.
Evan Smith, deputy mission systems engineer for DART at APL, said the most “sweaty” time for engineers watching would be about 50 minutes before impact.
“Both objects will still be in the field of view, but we’ll go straight to Dimorphos and go for effect,” he said. “We have a lot of contingencies built around that 50-minute transition. We’re going to be watching telemetry like a hawk. We’re going to be so scared, but excited.”
Key stages after this point will include a precise lock-in at 20 minutes for impact, and then the moment the thrusters cut off the spacecraft approximately 2.5 minutes before impact.
“We’ll be streaming pictures all the time,” Smith said. The images will be transmitted from DRACO through the spacecraft’s avionics and then sent back to Earth via radio. NASA’s Deep Space Network of satellite dishes will pick up the signal and send it to live broadcasts on Earth.
In the meantime, a little cubes Dubbed LICIACube and launched with DART, it will take pictures of its own, safely away from the site of impact. That footage should be sent back to Earth in the following days.
NASA will also monitor the impact via a network of ground-based telescopes, and officials said they will share this information as soon as possible. However, it may take several weeks to obtain all the information, as checking whether the orbit of Dimorphos has changed may take some time.
What we’ll really see after the collision is still largely unknown, despite the number of simulations NASA has run. “How much to ejaculate, if you want to put it on the field, we don’t know for sure, which is why we’re doing this test. But it’s like a million kilos,” Chabot said.
While that sounds like a lot, she did point out that it’s roughly one-tenth the mass of Demorphos and that the spacecraft is of course very small by comparison. Members of the DART team believe that the moon’s orbit will change by only 1%.
“We describe it as having ran a golf cart in the Great Pyramid,” Chabot said. “This won’t blow up the asteroid. It won’t break it into a lot of pieces.”
Future space missions will benefit not only from the asteroid propulsion display but also from developments that will allow DART to orient itself on its final landing.
“I just want to enjoy outside for a second,” Chen said. “From an engineer’s perspective, as the technology demonstrates intelligence, we are very excited about the idea of doing more autonomous control and navigation in future spacecraft.”