We all know the story: an asteroid the size of Texas hurtling towards Earth. You’re an oil driller recruited by NASA to stop it. You die saving the world, Aerosmith plays, Liv Tyler is there. You know, the usual.
Well, it’s more usual than you might think; NASA is currently gearing up for a Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, on November 23. The DART will hopefully change the direction of the asteroid Didymos and its moonlet, the closest near-Earth objects and potential hazards. While it’s not the size of Texas, and while it’s not exactly hurtling towards us, it’s still close enough to be a potential threat.
DART is NASA’s first planetary defense-driven test and the first demonstration of the “kinetic impactor” technique. This means that the DART spacecraft will deliberately crash itself into the asteroid, changing its orbital speed and allowing it to be studied from Earth. The spacecraft will launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. It will hit the asteroid at about 15,000 miles per hour.
DART is unmanned, so there’s no risk of anyone’s dad or boyfriend dying on the mission. Looking at you, Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck.
NASA’s Hubble Telescope Snaps Pic of “Cosmic Eye”
Recently, the Hubble Telescope took a photo of a huge, bright galaxy nearly 130-million light-years away. What looks like a “cosmic eye” in a Hubble Twitter post is actually a Seyfert galaxy, a spiral galaxy that has an active galactic nuclei, which is what makes it so bright and visible.
Speaking of telescopes, a new successor to the Hubble is launching in December; the James Webb Telescope will launch from French Guiana on Dec. 18, ushering in a new era of spectacular space photos.
In even more NASA news, the rover Perseverance is hard at work on Mars. NASA says “the story of Mars, once flowing with lava and water, is beginning to unfold.” Perseverance has been on Mars for 217 Earth days since late September, which translates to 211 Martian days, according to NASA.
With Perseverance uncovering the mysteries of possible life on Mars, and the Artemis Program going back to the moon, NASA is hoping to open the doors to astronauts on Mars eventually. “The mission itself personifies the human ideal of persevering towards the future,” said NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk when Perseverance launched from Cape Canaveral.
In an adorable turn of events, Perseverance took a selfie with the rock it drilled for samples, Rochette, on September 26. NASA captioned the photo “Pardon our dust!”, and over 600,000 people liked the photo. Who knew space exploration could be so cute?