Europe is taking part in a NASA mission (the federal agency in charge of the American space program) to defend against asteroids threatening our planet, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced Thursday during a videoconference. Belgium is also taking part in the project.
The mission, dubbed “DART” (for “Double Asteroid Redirect Test“), must examine whether a space vehicle is capable of deflecting an asteroid enough by crashing on its surface so that it no longer poses a threat to Earth.
The 620 kg machine, launched into space in November 2021, is due to collide at 3:14 a.m. (HB) on Monday with the asteroid Dimorphos, which measures 160 meters, 11 million kilometers from us. Dimorphos constitutes a “moon” of the largest asteroid Didymos. This system was discovered in 1996 and poses no threat to Earth. By comparison, DART and its two optical cameras are no bigger than a shoebox.
The effect of this collision will not be known immediately, warns the ESA. For this mission, the European agency notably puts its space tracking system “Estrack” available.
For its part, a research team from the Royal Observatory of Belgium will participate in the processing of the data delivered by DART, which should in particular be used to better understand the internal composition of asteroids.