NASA plans to test the asteroid deflection technique known as the Double Asteroid Redirection Test or DART. This kinetic impactor technique is designed to strike the asteroid to shift its orbit and prevent from impacting the planet Earth.
DART is built and managed by scientists from The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. NASA just approved the preliminary design phase on June 23, 2017.
NASA would like to use DART to examine how it will deflect the intermediate-sized asteroids such as the Didymos B. Once it targeted the body, DART will zero in and hit Didymos B. Meanwhile, ESA's Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM), which serves as an observation platform, will orbit Didymos A and will record the impact that will be observed from Earth.
The researchers will gauge how much DART could alter the orbit of Didymos B. With this, they could evaluate the effectiveness of kinetic impact and how to enhance it. DART's impact velocity may not that much. On the other hand, a slight impact from DART could shift the asteroid's path that could prevent collision with the planet. The test is slated in 2024, according to Phys.org.
Tom Statler, the program scientist for DART, said that a binary asteroid is the perfect natural laboratory for this test. He further said that the fact that Didymos B is in orbit around Didymos A makes it easier to see the results of the impact. This guarantees that the experiment does not change the orbit of the pair around the Sun.
Meanwhile, Andy Cheng of The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and the co-lead of DART investigation said that DART is a critical step in demonstrating they can protect the planet Earth from a future asteroid impact. He further said that with DART, they can show how to guard the planet Earth against an asteroid strike with a kinetic impactor by knocking the dangerous object into a different flight path that would not threaten the planet, as New Atlas noted.