A massive asteroid impact is one of the greatest threats to life on this planet, and for human civilization in particular. Although a catastrophic collision is pretty unlikely, we’re remarkably ill-prepared to deal with it if such an event would occur. This is starting to change, however, as the European Space Agency (ESA) has recently started work on a project which could one day save humanity from a history-altering disaster.
Called the Asteroid Impact Mission (or AIM), it consists of a probe set to be launched in October 2020, which will then make its way to an asteroid known as Didymos. The target is a binary system made up of a larger, 800 meter object, and a smaller, 170 meter companion orbiting it, informally dubbed Didymoon. AIM will fly alongside Didymos at a distance of 10 to 35 km, from where it will conduct a series of measurements, while also dispatching a series of tiny CubeSats to take a closer look at the smaller object, as well as full-sized lander (the second time an ESA spacecraft will attempt something similar since Rosetta’s Philae landed on a comet in November 2014). This is expected to gather valuable information regarding the formation of our Solar System (since asteroids are some of the objects orbiting the Sun and have been largely unchanged in the last few billions of years) and the structure and composition of the asteroid, but it will also be there to witness the second, more spectacular phase of the mission.
AIM is just one part of a project called AIDA (Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment), conducted in collaboration with NASA and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, among others. In late 2022, with Didymos “just” 11 million km from Earth (that’s less than thirty times the distance from our planet to the Moon), NASA’s part of the mission will arrive at its destination. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is a spacecraft weighing in at more than 300 kg, designed to crash into Didymoon at 6.25 km/s, and slightly alter its orbit. How slightly? Scientists aren’t sure, but AIM will hopefully still be close enough to find out (about 100 km away at the moment of impact).
The estimated change in velocity is somewhere on the order of 4 mm/s, which doesn’t seem like much when your goal is to stop a dangerous space rock from hitting our planet. But keep in mind this adds up over time, and also the Earth itself moves at about 30 km/s and has a diameter of about 12,700 km, making it a really small target when considering the scale of the Solar System. At huge distances and great speeds, the slightest of deflections can make a big difference!
Taken separately, each of these probes will reveal really interesting data. AIM will be the first probe to rendezvous with and study a binary asteroid, gathering data about its structure and helping scientists understand how these objects formed. Meanwhile, the change in the asteroid’s orbit after the impact with DART will also be measurable from Earth. This means that even if, for some reason, one of the AIDA’s two components won’t be launched or won’t work properly, the mission could still be at least partially successful.
Together, however, the two spacecraft could do some really amazing science. AIM will not only measure the size and shape of the impact crater, but also determine the characteristics of the ejected materials, thus providing valuable insights we might once need in order to move a city-killer asteroid (like the 170 meter Didymoon) into an orbit which is safe for us. This is important, since asteroids aren’t exactly solid chunks of material with fully understood properties and structures. You wouldn’t want, for instance, to hit one with a rocket only to see it break apart and continue hurtling to Earth as a hail of space rocks.
It’s nice to know that in just a few years we’ll be sending a space mission to smack an asteroid right in the face and change its path through the Solar System, though it doesn’t seem we’ll actually need to resort to something like this any time soon. Our truce with the Universe has been holding for some time, and there aren’t any signs of this changing for the foreseeable future.
Starship could make its first orbital voyage in December thanks to SpaceX
The initial test orbital flight of the Starship has previously been postponed numerous times.
The first test orbital flight of the Starship might occur as soon as next month. The information was disclosed by Mark Kirasich, a senior NASA official in charge of the Artemis moon program’s development, during a live-streamed NASA Advisory Council meeting. Reuters reported that Kirasich stated NASA keeps tabs on four significant Starship flights, the first of which is scheduled to take place in the first part of December.
According to the previously disclosed plans, SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in Texas will serve as the launch site for the Starship spaceship and its Super Heavy launcher. Three minutes into the journey, the launcher will separate and splash down in the Gulf of Mexico, while the Starship vehicle itself will enter orbit before reentering the atmosphere and landing on the ocean close to Hawaii. The test flight’s total duration is anticipated by the business to be 90 minutes.
Since the middle of 2021, SpaceX has been planning Starship’s first orbital voyage, but it kept getting postponed for various technical and legal reasons. For instance, the environmental evaluation for the launch facility owned by the space business in Boca Chica was just just approved. Even so, the FAA demanded more than 75 adjustments from the corporation before approving a launch license for the site to lessen the impact of its flights on the environment.
The FAA will issue the business a launch license “only when SpaceX produces all outstanding information and the agency can fully review it,” a representative for the organization told Reuters. Prior to the flight, SpaceX must also carry out and pass further tests, including a static fire test of all 33 Raptor engines on the Super Heavy booster, according to SpaceNews.
The Starship’s static fire test in July went horribly wrong when propellants under the booster caught fire. The company’s subsequent effort in August was successful, however only one Raptor engine was ignited on the Super Heavy. Starship also needs to go through a full wet dress rehearsal, which involves a rocket that is loaded with propellants going through the launch countdown but not really lifting off.
SpaceX will do a lot of test flights of Starship, including an uncrewed landing on the moon, before landing astronauts there, Kirasich says. But the first time it will dock with Orion will be on the Artemis III mission in lunar orbit.
— Christian Davenport (@wapodavenport) October 31, 2022
NASA’s DART probe successfully collided with an asteroid.
At the time of impact, the impactor vehicle, about the size of a vending machine, was moving at about 14,000 mph.
After traveling for over a year, NASA‘s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, which attempted to provide answers, “Could a specially crafted satellite be used to divert an asteroid from its planet-destroying course? How about a number? “has effectively impacted the Dimorphos asteroid. However, NASA ground control has confirmed that the DART impact vehicle has intercepted the target asteroid. The results and data from the collision are still being received. Yes, Dimorphos is about the size of a football stadium, but space is very big, extremely dark, and both the asteroid and the spaceship were traveling rather quickly at the time.
“It’s been a successful completion of the first part of the world’s first planetary defense test,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said after the impact. “I believe it’s going to teach us how one day to protect our own planet from an incoming asteroid. We are showing that planetary defense is a global endeavor and it is very possible to save our planet.”
In an effort to investigate the employment of defensive satellites as a method of planetary defense against Near Earth Objects, NASA launched the DART mission in November 2021. Nearly 68 million miles from Earth, the DART impactor vehicle, about the size of a vending machine, tragically crossed Dimorphos’ path while traveling at about 14,000 MPH.
It remains to be seen if future generations of a planetary defense system will be packed with satellites ready to go full June Bug vs. Chrysler Windshield against real planet-killer asteroids. Dimorphos is one of two asteroids that are gravitationally entangled; its parent rock is more than five times larger than Dimorphos itself, but both are dwarfed by the space rock that struck Earth 66 million years ago and destroyed 75% of the planet’s multicellular life while gouging out the Gulf of Mexico.
Aurora Station, The First Luxuxry Hotel Experience in Space
Living in space has been the dream of a lot of people. Some just really want to see what wonders the Final Frontier has to behold. As such, the moment we get updates about life in space, a lot of people’s heads tend to turn and some eyebrows rise.
This time, we’re going to see the first ever luxury space hotel which was introduced during the Space 2.0 Summit in San Jose, California. The Aurora Station is being developed by Orion Span and a group of space industry veterans.
The exclusive hotel will host six people at a time – including two crew members. Space travelers will enjoy a completely authentic, once-in-a-lifetime astronaut experience with extraordinary adventure during their 12-day journey, starting at $9.5 million USD per person.
Yeah, I forgot to say that the price is a little bit high for a lot of people, this is a luxury hotel, after all. And hey, right now those who read this article and have the money to fork over the experience, deposits are now being accepted for a future stay in the station.
The Station aims to launch in late 2021, with the capability to host its first guests the year after that. Those who can spare the coin have to pay up $80,000 USD per person online which is fully refundable.
So, users who are going to stay at the Aurora Station will have the absolutely incredible experience of living in a zero-gravity environment. Not only that but they can also be part of the experiments going on in the station such as growing food while in orbit.
Now, considering I am scared of Space because games like Dead Space have told me that it’s bad. I’d rather stay on the floor for a while longer. However, those interested into their own space experience can go and make their reservations here.
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