Science

Nasa prepares to crash a spacecraft into an asteroid in ‘planetary defense test’ – live

We’re a little less than one hour away from the collision of the Dart spacecraft with the asteroid Dimorphos, at 7.14pm EST.

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Mission managers have just conducted a status poll to ensure everything is on track. Everything appears to be progressing smoothly towards the moment of impact, and the spacecraft is behaving as expected.

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A final poll will be taken 30 minutes from impact.

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Dr Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of Nasa’s science mission directorate, says the agency is “optimistic” that tonight’s mission will be successful:

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I always think it’s the world is made out of a box. There are things we know that we can use and a large space of things that are unknown. In that large space are solutions for problems of the future.

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There’s new research, new understanding of nature. And we at Nasa are all about moving that boundary back to make more things useful for us, like Dart, but also understanding nature in a new fashion.

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This is a step in that direction. We’re very optimistic.

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key events

Nasa ‘optimistic’ about success of Dart mission

We’re a little under an hour from the Dart spacecraft’s collision with the asteroid Dimorphos at 7:14 p.m. EST.

Mission Managers just ran a status poll to make sure everything is on track. Up until the moment of impact, everything seems to be progressing smoothly, and the spacecraft behaves as expected.

A final survey is conducted 30 minutes after impact.

dr Thomas ZurbuchenDeputy Administrator for NASA’s Directorate of Science Missions says the agency is “optimistic” that today’s mission will be successful:

I always think the world is made out of a box. There are things we know that we can use and a great deal of things that are unknown. In this large space are solutions to problems of the future.

There is new research, a new understanding of nature. And at Nasa, we’re all about pushing that boundary backwards to make more things useful to us, like darts, but also to understand nature in new ways.

This is a step in that direction. We are very optimistic.

Not everyone at Nasa will focus on today’s asteroid mission. As Hurricane Ian descends on Florida in full fury, the emergency response teams of Artemis 1the space agency’s first crewable lunar mission in half a century, are also eyeing the sky.

Earlier this morning they made the decision to send the Space Launch System’s giant moon rocket back from its ocean-side launch pad to the safety of Kennedy Space Center’s vehicle assembly building.

Artemis 1 on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Artemis 1 on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo: Brynn Anderson/AP

It’s further frustration for the space agency, which has seen two launch attempts from Cape Canaveral thwarted by technical problems in recent weeks.

The rocket’s 4.2-mile journey on one of NASA’s giant caterpillars will take about 11 hours and further delay the next launch attempt until at least mid-October.

Bloomberg’s Space Reporter Loren Grush wonders if today’s darts mission might prove to be somewhat cathartic:

Bad news: NASA rolls back SLS ahead of Hurricane Ian and further delays Artemis I
Good news: NASA will vent its frustration by slamming into an asteroid tonight

— Loren Grush (@lorengrush) September 26, 2022

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Bad news: NASA rolls back SLS ahead of Hurricane Ian and further delays Artemis I
Good news: NASA will vent its frustration by slamming into an asteroid tonight

— Loren Grush (@lorengrush) September 26, 2022

Here are a few more details from NASA on the target of today’s “planetary defense test,” the 160-meter-diameter Dimorphos.

Its length is equivalent to about 1.5 football pitches and is the smaller of two asteroids in a binary asteroid system that the agency believes is perfect for the mission. Dimorphos orbits the larger asteroid, Didymos (Greek for “twin”), every 11 hours 55 minutes.

According to this helpful report on the science behind the Dart mission from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

None of the asteroids pose a threat to our planet, which is one of the reasons why this asteroid system is the ideal place to test asteroid diversion techniques.

At the time of Dart’s impact, the pair of asteroids will be 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometers) from Earth in their orbit around the Sun.

Regardless of how much or how little Dart changes Dimorphos’ orbit, the asteroid will not become a threat to Earth.

Which is certainly a great relief.

We’ll (hopefully) be able to watch the Dart spacecraft’s collision with Dimorphos live, or at least with a few minutes delay, thanks to what Nasa calls the mission’s “mini-photographer,” the LICIACube (short for Light Italian CubeSat for imaging asteroids).

The satellite craft will fly past Dimorphos about three minutes after Dart crashed, Nasa says, with the aim of “confirming the spacecraft’s impact, observing the evolution of the ejected plume, possibly capturing images of the newly formed impact crater and the opposite hemisphere.” of Dimorphos that Dart will never see”.

The cameras were already busy. Earlier this week, as part of the calibration process, LICIACube captured images of a crescent-shaped Earth and the Pleiades star cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters.

En esta imagen el pequeño CubeSat italiano @LICIACube Photographed with the camera LEIA a la Tierra at a distance of 11 million km.
Nos recuerda a la histórica imagen "earthrise" captured by William Anders during the mission Apolo 8.https://t.co/tZEq6sHAyA pic.twitter.com/iRv1kHP9x1

— Ana Julia (@anajuliabanlei) September 26, 2022

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Las Primeras Imágenes Tomadas por un satélite italiano en el espacio profundo.
la @ASI_spazio mostró las primeras fotografías tomadas por @LICIACube que sigue a la sonda DART para observar el choque. This imagen del cumulo abierto de las Pléyades fue captada por su cámara LUKE. pic.twitter.com/a0sTOpb4xm

— Ana Julia (@anajuliabanlei) September 26, 2022

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Las Primeras Imágenes Tomadas por un satélite italiano en el espacio profundo.
la @ASI_spazio mostró las primeras fotografías tomadas por @LICIACube que sigue a la sonda DART para observar el choque. This imagen del cumulo abierto de las Pléyades fue captada por su cámara LUKE. pic.twitter.com/a0sTOpb4xm

— Ana Julia (@anajuliabanlei) September 26, 2022

The imaging portion of the project is managed by the Italian Space Agency’s Mission Office for Robotic Exploration, while overall responsibility for managing DART lies with Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, for NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office.

You can read more about LICIACube here.

And here’s a statement we previously released about the Dart mission, which Nasa is conducting in collaboration with scientists from Johns Hopkins University.

It’s important to note that there is currently no threat to Earth from an asteroid… this test mission is being conducted to assess our readiness if Such a danger has ever arisen.

But it’s a topic that’s been in the public eye lately, particularly with last year’s Netflix comedy Don’t Look Up, in which Earth faces impending doom from a menacing asteroid with little to no one caring about it or it seems to notice.

Hello blog readers, space enthusiasts and those who just want to know if humanity can be saved from the apocalypse of a giant asteroid crashing into Earth.

In about two hours, at 7:14 p.m. ET, Nasa will take the first steps to find out. The space agency will intentionally crash a spacecraft the size of a small car into Dimorphos, the moon of asteroid Didymos, orbiting about 6.8 million miles away.

The goal of Dart mission (double asteroid redirection test). is to see if the asteroid’s trajectory can be altered by the force of the impact, suggesting that humanity is capable of at least trying to avert such an Armageddon-style event.

A multi-year, $325 million venture, the unprecedented “planetary defense test” is the first in a series of NASA missions to assess our readiness for the threat of a large asteroid impact.

We’ll be bringing you all developments over the next few hours, but before we start, let’s take a look at the mission itself:


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