If all goes to plan in September 2022, a NASA spacecraft, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, could create a man-made meteor shower.
The purpose is to nudge the orbit of its same item--a practice run to see if astronauts could divert an asteroid from a catastrophic impact with our planet in the destination.
According to The Planetary Science Journal, observing the man-made shower may allow scientists on Earth to examine the composition of near-Earth asteroids. The cloud of debris could also mark a small irony for a space mission to help protect planet Earth.
If this small shower of space rocks reaches the planet, it will create a minuscule amount of peril for orbiting satellites. The researchers said anticipating the spacecraft's operations generate a template for future missions.
NASA to release DART spacecraft in 2021
NASA plans to release the 1,100-pound DART spacecraft in 2021. DART intends to travel with a couple of near-Earth asteroids called Didymos. If the project succeeds, it might help verify that humanity's best defense to a rogue asteroid bumping to another orbit.
Meanwhile, Didymos' next close pass is scheduled for Oct. 4, 2022, at a distance of 6.6 million miles. That is a few days after DART is expected to impact on Sept. 30, making observations from Earth easier.
The impact is expected to produce around 22,000 and 220,000 kilos of centimeter-sized debris. "There's a fair amount of material that will be ejected," said Paul Wiegert, the paper's author and an astronomy professor at the University of Western Ontario.
Most of the wreckage has to be ejected at much less than 2,000 miles per hour. The impact will also follow the orbit of the asteroid, without hitting Earth for the next few years. If some of the debris reaches more than 13,000 miles per hour, it will make the relatively short leap to Earth in as little as 15-30 days.
The expected number of material that might reach Earth is modest. Dr. Wiegert estimates perhaps some grams, resulting in only "a few to ten" meteors seen on the sky over a few days. That might be sufficient to learn more about the composition of the asteroid as the meteors disintegrate.
Will it harm Earth?
The prospect that any of this debris will damage Earth-orbiting satellites is "negligible." Tom Statler, the system scientist for DART at NASA, told The New York Times the team's very own analysis shows there is "no significant debris hazard."
However, Dr. Wiegert and other astronomers advocate that the mission is going to set a critical precedent.
Aaron Boley, a planetary astronomer at the University of British Columbia, notes this would be the first time human activities on an asteroid ejects particles that reach Earth.
"Space is big, but what we do in space can affect us," he told NY Times.
Future human activities in space, consisting of near-Earth asteroid mining and similarly planetary defense testing, should shed more material that arrives in Earth's orbit. That way, the DART project is probably an opportunity to remember how human activities in deep areas have an effect on existence on and around Earth.