SpaceX Is Going To Help NASA Deflect An Asteroid
NASA has announced in a press release that they intend to work with the private company SpaceX in an operation designed to test their capabilities to deflect an asteroid.
In their statement, NASA said that SpaceX was selected from a number of potential partners by the Space agency to work on the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission. They explain that this will be the first-ever mission to attempt to deflect an asteroid traveling in the direction of a spacecraft at high speed using a technique referred to as the kinetic impactor. It is estimated that the project will cost approximately $69 million in all.
The DART mission is projected to take place in June 2021 and will involve a Falcon 9 rocket designed by SpaceX. After launching, the rocket will use solar electric propulsion to guide it towards the asteroid Didymos’ small moon and will then attempt to change its course direction. By the time the rocket reaches the target in October 2022, the asteroid will be approximately 11 million kilometers from Earth.
Perfecting the techniques of asteroid deflection is considered to be of vital importance as NASA looks further afield for its space missions. The inability of spacecraft to deflect asteroids could cause significant problems for missions traveling in the vicinity of Mars which lies much closer to the asteroid belt than planet Earth.
Asteroid deflection is also considered to be important to protect the planet as a whole. In recent decades, there have been very few meteor impacts on Earth but they can still cause devastating losses to life and property. It is also considered to be important for humans to develop a technique to deflect the kind of asteroid impact that precipitated the extinction event which ended the age of the dinosaurs.
SpaceX has worked in conjunction with NASA on a number of occasions before and while there have been successful joint operations, the private company, which is helmed by the controversial CEO Elon Musk, has a spotted record. Only time will tell as to whether this operation will go off without a hitch.