NASA asteroid busting

by John McClaughry

A month or so ago I discussed four problems that mankind badly needs to solve. One was U.S. insolvency, one was electromagnetic pulse protection, one was overcoming super bugs, and one was facing down an errrant asteroid.

A week ago NASA announced plans to redirect the course of a small asteroid approaching Earth, as part of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test – called DART.

the DART project is for the asteroids that are too big to break up — and could have severe consequences for the Earth if they hit.

Said NASA, “DART would be NASA’s first mission to demonstrate what’s known as the kinetic impactor technique — striking the asteroid to shift its orbit — to defend against a potential future asteroid impact,”

The target of the test is a binary asteroid system called Didymos.

In October 2022, as Didymos makes an approach near Earth, NASA will launch a refrigerator-sized spacecraft towards the two linked asteroids. When the DART spacecraft and the asteroid collide, the spacecraft will be traveling at a staggering 3.7 miles per second.

“The kinetic impact technique works by changing the speed of a threatening asteroid by a small fraction of its total velocity,” the release says, “but by doing it well before the predicted impact so that this small nudge will add up over time to a big shift of the asteroid’s path away from Earth.”

Forget that “manned landing on Mars” foolishness – we’re finally getting serious about diverting an asteroid, which could come in real handy in 2036.

- John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. 

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