From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : DART, Binary Asteroid System, Didymos
Mains level : Planetary Defence
- NASA is planning to launch a spacecraft aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that will hit a small moonlet in the binary asteroid system Didymos in September 2022.
- The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) – Nasa’s first mission to demonstrate a planetary defence technique — is scheduled to be launched in mid-2021, the US space agency said on Monday.
- By using solar electric propulsion, DART will intercept the target when the asteroid will be within 11 million km of Earth.
- To navigate the DART spacecraft to its intended target — a binary asteroid that consists of a small moon (Didymos B) orbiting a larger body (Didymos A) — scientists need to understand how the system behaves.
- Scientists have been making efforts to observe Didymos from Earth since 2015 as it is too small and too far to be seen as anything more than a point of light
Earth is a binary asteroid system. How?
- A moonlet is a small moon whereas a binary asteroid system is a system of two asteroids orbiting their common barycentre.
- The barycentre is the centre of mass of two or more bodies that are orbiting each other which is the point around which they both orbit.
- The spacecraft will hit a small moonlet in the binary asteroid system Didymos in September 2022.