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How NASA DART Mission Benefits Humanity?

NASA DART Mission has successfully deflected an asteroid and changed its path. It was the first time human beings were able to alter the course of a planetary body. The asteroid was not Earth-bound and posed no threat to human beings. The purpose of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) was to try a potential strategy in case any spatial object made a beeline for Earth.

The idea of a potential impact between Earth and a comet has been floated in many Hollywood films like the recent Don’t Look Up in 2021. In the movie, scientists tried to break up the comet with the help of weapons made by a tech giant, but the method didn’t work. Then the elites flee the planet in an exclusive spacecraft, leaving the rest of humanity to perish under the big rock. However, the DART mission has proved that humans can do better in real life, even without using destructive force.

What Happened in NASA DART Mission?

The space agency sent a spacecraft to collide with Dimorphos, a moonlet orbiting the bigger host Didymos. The radius of the smaller asteroid was only 85m compared to the 390m of Didymos. It took 715 minutes for Dimorphos to orbit around its sibling, but after the impact, the time was brought down to 660 minutes. That’s 32 minutes difference and a landmark achievement for the scientists at NASA. Changing the asteroid’s orbital period meant it became slightly closer to Dimorphos. NASA DART Mission provides hope that in an actual emergency, Earth can avoid collision with countless asteroids and planets roaming about in space.

Looming Threat in Outer Space

The risk of Earth getting hit by an asteroid or a comet might be low, but scientists have enough evidence to take the threat seriously. Millions of Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are orbiting in space, moving closer to Earth, posing a danger of hitting it someday. While many are small and insignificant, some large ones can have global consequences upon striking Earth. According to NASA, there are about 25,000 Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) larger than 140m in diameter. The threshold for penetrating Earth’s atmosphere is 50m, so a smaller one can also have a great impact. Space programs track these NEOs and determine their size, orbits, shapes, and physical characteristics to defend against the threat.

Using this Strategy in Case of a Real Threat

NASA DART Mission has also sparked debate on whether humans are ready for actual planetary defence. Scientists believe that at least 1 km-sized asteroids usually hit Earth several times every 1 million years. However, small meteorites enter the atmosphere yearly, shaping the Earth’s geology. Over the years, there have also been many incidents that have caused material and human damage. The biggest known asteroid impacts in modern times were the 1908 Tunguska Event and the 2013 Chelyabinsk Event. Most recently, a 4m asteroid was detected before it fell into the Caribbean Sea near Puerto Rico in 2019.

Even though most of the smaller asteroids are harmless, they could cause mass destruction in a populated area. It is why NASA conducted the test in the first place to establish a strategy to deal with larger threats. Unfortunately, DART’s results may not be an optimal solution for all kinds of meteor threats. As every asteroid is different, one test cannot establish how other bodies will behave like Dimorphos. There must be more tests and simulations before learning how every impact would turn out in every situation. So, if scientists ever needed to deflect a meteor headed towards Earth, they may need to begin the process several years in advance.

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A I Butt
A I Butt
The purpose of my writing is to record the same voices that are repressed by manual systems.
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