Do you have space anxiety? For some, the more they learn about space, the more fearful they become of objects colliding with Earth or a nearby star exploding. One of the greatest space-related fears is asteroids. These often-massive rocks can take out entire countries with very little notice.
However, NASA might be capable of putting your fears to rest once and for all. New NASA technology is being developed that can detect and destroy exceptionally large asteroids so that they don’t mess with our planet. Known as DART, this technology can put our minds at ease at last.
What is an Asteroid?
An asteroid is a space object composed of rock material. Technically, an asteroid is a small planet. Asteroids range in size, capable of being the size of a dust particle or, well, a planet. The largest asteroid ever discovered was Ceres, detected in 1801.
It’s important to clear up any misconception that a comet and an asteroid are the same thing. Asteroids, as we said earlier, are mainly rock material. Meanwhile, comets are composed of ice and dust.
It’s also worth noting that a meteoroid is a small piece of an asteroid that has broken off as the result of a collision. Therefore, meteoroids are significantly smaller than asteroids.
A good number of asteroids are referred to as “near-Earth” objects as they have the potential to put our planet at risk. Amazingly, to be considered a “near-Earth” object, it must be within 28 million miles of Earth. While this sounds like a lot, it’s really not in the grand scheme of things. Keep in mind that we’re just under 95 million miles away from the sun.
How Can NASA Detect Asteroids?
In 1998, Congress urged NASA to develop a system that would allow them to properly detect asteroids before they became a threat to our planet. Congress put additional pressure on them in 2005.
Modern technology has allowed NASA to spot asteroids by taking multiple pictures of space daily. A specialized detection program identifies potential asteroids and notifies NASA about its proximity to Earth, the speed at which it’s traveling and its projected path.
However, it can still be difficult to detect smaller asteroids as they can appear as other space objects on cameras. Additionally, it’s hard to determine whether an asteroid will eventually collide with a surface or explode before it gets a chance to make contact.
How Can NASA Destroy Asteroids?
Say hello to DART, more formerly known as the Double Asteroid Redirection Test. For seven years, DART has been in its developmental stages in order to ensure its ability to destroy asteroids. It’s planned to launch in 2021, just in time for a potential asteroid to make its way into our orbit.
The goal of DART is to redirect the path of an asteroid by way of gentle collision with the spacecraft. Simply changing the orbital speed of an asteroid could prevent it from making its way toward Earth.
While DART has been around for a while, it hasn’t been put to work yet. That’s because it hasn’t been constructed. However, it’s believed that DART will be a fully functional spacecraft within the next year or so.
The Objective is Simple… DestroyIf NASA can truly destroy large asteroids that threaten our planet, we can finally stop fearing these seemingly unpredictable space objects that are capable of such inconceivable damage.