This week a small part of Science Fiction became reality. In the vein of ‘Armageddon’, and to a lesser degree ‘Don’t Look Up’, humanity took its first steps in establishing a Planetary Defence System. For those who aren’t aware, on Tuesday (27th September 2022), NASA completed the final steps of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission.
Basically, the essence of the DART Mission is to ram a spacecraft into an asteroid at excessively high speeds, and see if it causes the asteroid to change direction. No mean feat, considering the target is only 170 metres wide, the spacecraft is travelling at 22,500 km/hour (14,000 miles/hour), and the whole dance is being undertaken a mere 11 million kilometres (7 million miles) away!
With this mission, Space appears to be back in vogue, especially when you also include SpaceX’s highly publicised (and incredible) reusable rockets, the Artemis missions (to the Moon!) ramping up, and Elon with his Red Planet obsessions.
If you ask me (not that you did, but this is my soapbox!), the time for humanity to physically visit the great unknown is long past due.
Potentially controversially, I don’t even think we need a particularly good reason to do so. We should do it just because it’s there, and we can. Much like a child looking at a tree with a determined, calculating look on their face, we should just give it a go, and see how high we get.
Naturally, at some point the Space Race will be back on, because (bluntly) of who we are as a species. You can’t have two competing nations try and complete similar goals without them getting into a measuring contest of the proverbial. But until that point, I am going to sit with the excitement that we managed to achieve something this week that we have never done before.
And tomorrow we may do more.