NASA is gearing up for its first planetary defense mission, Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). The target is the moon of a near-Earth asteroid that was discovered close to two decades ago. It’s been given the unofficial name of “Didymos B” since its finding — “Didymos” is Greek for “twin” — as a nod to its binary system with the asteroid.
DART is projected to happen as soon as 2022, and it will be the “first full-scale demonstration of an asteroid deflection technology for planetary defense.” NASA plans to launch a spacecraft into the target, delivering a kinetic impact in order to re-direct its path away from Earth.
“Didymos B” is now officially being named “Dimorphos.” According to Andy Rivkin, DART investigation co-lead at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), “asteroids get a temporary name until we know their orbits well enough to know they won’t be lost. Once the Didymos system was identified as the ideal target for the DART mission, we needed to formally distinguish between the main body and the satellite.”
Dimorphos means “two forms,” reflecting the “first celestial body to have the ‘form’ of its orbit significantly changed by humanity.” It measures at 160 meters in diameter, a “perfect target,” according to NASA, for DART due to its orbit around its larger counterpart and its close proximity to Earth.
The 2022 defense mission will be a significant “part of a blueprint for protecting the planet in the future.”
In case you missed it, NASA is letting you navigate Mars online with its AI4Mars rover.