NASA Crashed a Spacecraft Into an Asteroid and There Could Be Some Consequences

  • In September of 2022, NASA’s DART mission smashed into the astroid Dimorphos at 14,000 miles per hour to check the consequences of asteroid deflection.
  • Though the mission was successful, scientists have since been analyzing the after-effects of this human-induced celestial redirection—the primary in historical past.
  • A brand new paper particulars how, in 6,000 and 13,000 years, particles from this collision might discover its methods to Mars and go away behind 1,000-foot craters in its floor.

Asteroids loom massive in our apocalyptic creativeness. In any case, the dinosaurs didn’t escape a death-by-space-fireball. Why ought to mammals assume they’re an exception? And there’s trigger for fear. Roughly 25,000 asteroids bigger than 460 ft are buzzing about in Earth’s neighborhood, and a few 14,000 have but to be discovered. So, if humanity ever did discover itself behind the eight-ball of future, it could be good to know there’s an extinction-preventing plan in place.

Fortunately, NASA had the identical thought. Which is why, in September of 2022, the house company smashed a spacecraft into the asteroid Dimorphos to change its trajectory. This 14,000-mph kinetic impression was a part of the Double Asteroid Redirection Check (DART) mission, which was our species’ first try at purposely redirecting an object in house. Whereas the mission was hailed as a whole success, the fallout from that celestial run-in is producing some unintended penalties.

In a brand new paper revealed within the journal Month-to-month Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society in mid-February, Marco Fenucci—a researcher on the European House Company’s (ESA) Close to-Earth Objects Coordination Heart (NEOCC)—concluded that, whereas the ensuing particles from the DART impression gained’t fritter away in Earth’s environment, some is headed towards Mars’s orbit, the place a possible impression would have a a lot totally different end result.

“There could also be an opportunity for them to impression Mars sooner or later,” the paper reads. “Given the rarefaction of the Martian environment, we anticipate the boulders to reach intact on the bottom and excavate a small impression crater.”

Talking with Nationwide Geographic, Fenucci famous that impression craters may very well be as much as 1,000 ft huge. However due to its skinny environment, Mars is not any stranger to such impacts—in actual fact, Mars will get whacked by house particles 3.2 instances extra usually than even the Moon. These impacts additionally pale compared to Mars’ largest impression crater, the Hellas basin, which is roughly twice the scale of Alaska.

Whereas estimates dozens of millennia into the long run is usually a little fuzzy, these new house boulders gained’t make an in depth cross by Mars till some 6,000 years into the long run, and once more in 13,000 years.

So, whereas the DART mission might have a (far) future impression on the Purple Planet, the extra urgent concern is the ESA’s upcoming Hera mission—designed to research the consequences of the DART impression in larger element. Launching in October of this 12 months and reaching the Didymos−Dimorphos system in December of 2026, Hera will seemingly encounter some 37 new boulders floating across the binary asteroids in a particles subject.

If a collision is imminent, the spacecraft might must be maneuvered round these newly dislodged rocks. However, fortunately, house is massive, and the opportunity of impression continues to be fairly low.

Hopefully, Hera will arrive on the twin asteroids protected and sound, be taught all the small print of DART’s impression, and supply humanity with a a lot wanted Plan B for, effectively, going the way in which of the dinosaurs.

Headshot of Darren Orf

Darren lives in Portland, has a cat, and writes/edits about sci-fi and the way our world works. You will discover his earlier stuff at Gizmodo and Paste in case you look exhausting sufficient. 


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