• Theoretically, the $330m (Sh39.8 billion) spacecraft will be hand-controlled at nearly seven kilometres a second into the steroid.
• The mission? To see if, on impact, the asteroid will be deflected from its collision course with Earth.
Kenya will early Tuesday enter history books for documenting the first-ever experiment to assess whether an asteroid can be deflected to save Earth from its devastating impact should it be on a collision course with the planet.
The Dart probe by Nasa launched last November will culminate in a half-tonne spacecraft slamming head-on into Dimorphos, the asteroid in question, when the clock strikes 3.14 am on Tuesday.
The spectacle will occur about 11m kilometres above the Indian Ocean.
Theoretically, the $330m (Sh39.8 billion) spacecraft will be hand-controlled at nearly seven kilometres a second into the steroid.
The mission? To see if, on impact, the asteroid will be deflected from its collision course with Earth.
The experiment has been designed such that it will not knock the 160-metre-wide Dimorphos onto a collision course with Earth.
“What we want to do is use as much energy [as we can] from Dart to move the asteroid,” Prof Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer and member of the Nasa Dart investigation team at Queen’s University Belfast told the Guardian.
Astronomers under the DART – OPTiK team in Kenya are stationed at the TBI base in Ileret with a portable telescope.
Their aim is to capture the moment of impact and the dust cloud Dart kicks up.
The team comprises researchers from the University of Edinburgh, STFC UKRI, Technical University of Kenya and the Turkana Basin Institute.
They will observe the asteroid before and after Dart collides, miles away from the command centre in Vandenberg space force base, Nebraska, USA.
The impact will do nothing more than raise a cloud of debris and slow Dimorphos down.
“The primary mission is a test of planetary defence, but at the same time, we can learn a lot about the asteroid,” Prof Colin Snodgrass, an astronomer and member of the Dart mission science team at Edinburgh University told the Guardian.
“There’s no danger in this whatsoever,” he affirmed.
Scientists working on the project hope that if the nudge can deflect the asteroid, planet Earth may in future be saved from possible asteroid strikes and spare humans the same fate as the dinosaurs.
Some 66 million years ago, a large asteroid collided with Earth resulting in the wiping out of dinosaurs.