The spaceship will hit the asteroid at a speed of 22,000 kilometers per hour. The goal is not to blow it all up, but to launch Dimorphos out of orbit with a well-aimed flick. It’s the first time NASA has done such a mission, so it’s just a test. Demorphos itself poses no threat to Earth.
Michel van Pelt of the European Space Agency explains that the mission consists of two phases. NASA and the European Space Agency are conducting joint research on asteroids. First, NASA’s Dart crashes into a space rock, then the European Space Agency’s Herasonde will be sent into space in 2024 to find out exactly what happened. We will also see from the ground what the consequences are.
“It’s really about defending the Earth,” says Van Pelt. “So far we’ve always been very lucky.” “Now we’re also mapping what dangerous asteroids are. As a result, there are also more and more asteroid alarms. Then we see, for example, that the chance of them hitting Earth is 1 in 1,000.”
“But not a lot of research has been done yet on what exactly we can do if something like this happens,” van Pelt continues. “We’d like to see if the models we have are correct as well.”
Spaceflight journalist George Van Hall emphasized that it couldn’t hurt to actually test this. “It happens with some regularity that such an asteroid comes towards Earth,” he explains. “It happens once every ten or twenty years, but these are the slightly smaller variants. Near Chelyabinsk in Russia, for example, the size of the blow was about half and people were injured too.”
“This won’t work for all asteroids,” van Hal continues. “If one is really big, like a dinosaur, it’s not enough.” However, little boys aren’t completely harmful either. “Demorphos is still big enough to wipe out a city like New York.”
According to Van Pelt, there have been no really big influences in recent history. “Then we would have seen its remnants. In Russia this effect did not have many consequences, but if it had ended up in Amsterdam, it would have been a different story. The chance is small, but the potential effects are enormous.”
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