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Why Fly a Probe Into an Asteroid at 20 Times the Speed of Sound?

Over the coming months, NASA and the ESA will be gearing up for the launch of the DART (Double Asteroid Redirect Test) probe. The probe will fly out to meet the asteroids Didymos and Didymoon, where it will impact the surface of Didymoon at 6 km/s. That’s 20 times the speed of sound. The test aims to see how effective an impact-deflection technique will be at steering potentially dangerous asteroids away from Earth, measured by a second probe, Hera, set to arrive at the twin asteroids in 2023.

The Breakfast team did some digging on this mission, and here’s a quick dive in to what you should know about asteroid deflection programs; why they matter, what we do, and if we should be scared.

If you want to read up more on the mission, you can check it out on the NASA Website.

Please Note: The PDC2017 Asteroid was a hypothetical scenario created by JPL for a conference, not an actual threat.

Other sources:
The difference between asteroids and meteorites
JPL’s Report on 2017PDC
JPL’s Summary on Asteroid Risk
Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (1994), Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan, Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (July 6, 2011)

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