Although 2021 has not been such a bad year so far, after a year like 2020, we sometimes ask ourselves … “what else could possibly go wrong?” Thanks to movies like Armageddon, Don’t Look Up, Deep Impact, Ice Age, and others, we can again sleep restlessly knowing that Earth could be annihilated at any moment by an asteroid impact. Although an asteroid impact is often thought of as science fiction, it is something that can actually happen. In fact, many believe that the extinction of dinosaurs was the result of an ancient asteroid impact. Although it is not something that we ever expect to see in our lifetime, the possibility of an impact in the distant future cannot be ruled out. Consequently, scientists are already thinking about what we would do if we were ever faced with that scenario for real.
So, what’s the first step?
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test ( DART ) Mission is being developed and lead for NASA by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. A full description of the Mission can be found here. The DART mission is NASA’s demonstration of kinetic impactor technology impacting an asteroid to adjust its speed and path. Mission literature goes to extreme lengths to assure the public that this particular asteroid is NOT on a path to earth, and that this impact will not cause the asteroid to take aim on earth. It is simply a demonstration of our ability to take action in the event that earth is ever threatened.
DART arrives at the asteroid in October of 2022. I am sure we will hear more about the Mission at that time, and we will devote another blog to DART at that time also.
A mission like this involves so many of the skills that are taught in ATI’s courses related to Space and Systems Engineering. Please take a look at our courses here, and see what courses may be helpful to you and your team, so that you can be a contributor in future space missions that have such a huge impact, no pun intended.