WILL DART SLAMMING INTO AN ASTEROID'S MOON CAUSE IT TO TUMBLE CHAOTICALLY? | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

WILL DART SLAMMING INTO AN ASTEROID'S MOON CAUSE IT TO TUMBLE CHAOTICALLY?

In November 2021, NASA is launching a bold mission to test the technology needed in case we ever have to push a potentially hazardous asteroid off of an Earth-impacting trajectory. Called DART — for Double Asteroid Redirection Test — the 500-kilogram spacecraft will slam into an asteroid’s moon at over 23,000 kilometers per hour, changing the moon’s velocity by a tiny amount.

The idea is that if we ever find an asteroid headed our way, a future DART-like spacecraft can hit it and change its speed enough that, over time, it will miss Earth.

A new paper just published, interestingly, notes that the impact could have a previously unforeseen outcome, causing the moon to start tumbling as it orbits the parent asteroid. To be clear, we are in no danger whatsoever from this if it should happen, but it may complicate a future ESA mission that plans to land a pair of small probes on the moon. It may also have longer-term ramifications for the asteroid system.

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