NASA’s DART Mission Could Lead to Discoveries About the Origins of Our Solar System

Brandon Hanna
Brandon Hanna is a contributor to dot.LA. He is a mechanical engineer with more than a decade of industry experience in the science, technology, and startup scene.
NASA’s DART Mission Could Lead to Discoveries About the Origins of Our Solar System
Artist Illustration by National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Don’t look up now, but NASA’s upcoming DART mission is about to change planetary defense forever by proving that it’s possible to deflect a world-ending asteroid away from the Earth.

On September 26, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft will crash into the asteroid Dimorphos, attempting to alter the object’s trajectory around a larger asteroid called Didymos.


Not to worry, Bruce Willis and Michael Bay can sit this one out as Dimorphos is not on a collision course with Earth. The mission is the first-ever test to see if intercepting and striking an asteroid would work to deflect any future Earth-bound celestial objects.

The data collected will help scientists determine exactly how hard to hit an asteroid in the future, in the event that humanity must reckon with a celestial threat straight out of “Armageddon.”

The mission – managed by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Maryland – launched into space November 24, 2021 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Nearly 10 months later, NASA’s finally gearing up for DART’s impact.

DART’s 6.8 million mile journey was chosen because there is much to learn about the formation of the binary asteroid system, and its orbit can easily be seen through telescopes on Earth, making it an ideal target for this test.

But it won’t be easy to view the collision in real-time, because impact with the asteroid will cut off the data feed and destroy the spacecraft, and its high-tech space camera will be unable to record the collision. Thankfully, the Italian Space Agency is here to help – a small autonomous cube satellite (LICIACube) will fly by to photograph the impact and its effect on the asteroid system.

Long Beach-based startup Rocket Lab has a role in this mission, too – it is supporting the Italian satellite's journey to the asteroid inside one of its satellite dispensers, which deployed the CubeSat ten days before DART's impact to position itself to record the collision and ejecta plume dust cloud that will be lifted from the surface and interior of the asteroid on impact.

University of Maryland astronomy professor Ludmilla Kolokolova will then lead a team to analyze the images obtained by the Italian Space Agency’s CubeSat and model the ejecta plume.

NASA\u2019s DART spacecraft and the Italian Space Agency\u2019s (ASI) LICIACubeNASA’s DART spacecraft and the Italian Space Agency’s (ASI) LICIACubeNASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben

The research conducted after Monday’s test collision will steer us into a new and exciting era of astronomy that goes beyond just planetary defense, but helps us answer some of the universe's oldest questions, like how our solar system was formed.

Kolokolova told dot.LA she’s most excited about scientific discoveries that this experiment could help reveal, beyond protecting the planet from interstellar threats.

“The main goal of the project is to show that we can deflect the asteroid from the collision with the Earth if such a situation appears in the future,” Kolokolova said. “However, for me, as an astronomer, the main excitement is to learn more about asteroids. I am interested in exploring their internal structure as it is a clue to their formation.”

“There are several different theories that describe their formation,” she added. “In order to select between them we need to know the asteroid structure - is it solid, or porous, or layered, or ‘rubble pile’? Actually, this is important to understand the origin of the Near-Earth (the most hazardous) Asteroids in general. We know they came from the Main Asteroid Belt. But what brought them to the vicinity of the Earth: gravitational influence of Jupiter and Mars or collisions between asteroids? Collisions should affect their surface and interiors, so we can find the answer to this question studying characteristics of Dimorphos and Didymos.”

Scientists will get an even clearer picture of the formation of these asteroids in four years when the European Space Agency’s Hera mission arrives to survey Dimorphos’s surface and measure its mass.

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) involvement in the DART mission can be traced back to 2013, when a joint operational mission with NASA, called AIDA (Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment), involved the ESA developing the AIM (Asteroid Impact Mission) orbiter to accompany the DART spacecraft on its journey. The project was eventually abandoned in 2016 due to lack of financial support and was officially replaced by Hera in 2019.

To view live coverage of the impact, tune in to NASA TV and NASA social media pages, including Twitter and Instagram, beginning at 3pm PST/6pm EST this Monday, September 26.

🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.


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Fuel Innovation: 7 Unforgettable Team Building Experiences in LA
Image Source: Discover LA

In today's competitive business landscape, team building activities have emerged as a crucial tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing productivity, and crucially, improving employee retention. Studies have shown that such activities help employees feel valued, with one report indicating that 93% of those who felt appreciated were more motivated at work. Importantly, team building events may improve retention rates, as employees who feel connected to their colleagues and company culture are more likely to stay long-term. With these benefits in mind, let's explore some of the most engaging and effective team building activities available in Los Angeles.

Pickleball

Image Source: Modern Luxury Angelino

Pickleball is a fantastic team bonding activity because of the easy-to-grasp rules and gentle pace make it perfect for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The game thrives on communication and teamwork, as players must collaborate and strategize to outplay their opponents, boosting team cohesion. Plus, the lively, fast-paced action sparks friendly competition and laughter, creating a fun and spirited atmosphere that brings everyone closer together. Los Angeles boasts numerous pickleball courts that are easy to rent if you have your own equipment. If you need additional assistance organizing your pickleball outing, there are plenty of full-service companies ready to handle every detail for you.

Resources: Pickle Pop, Corporate Pickle


Escape Room

Image Source: The Escape Game

Escape rooms are a great way to build camaraderie. They require participants to work together, combining their problem-solving skills and creativity to overcome challenges and puzzles. The immersive and time-sensitive nature of escape rooms fosters collaboration and communication. Additionally, the shared experience of tackling complex tasks and reaching a common goal helps build trust and foster positive emotions among colleagues.

Resources: The Escape Game, 60Out


Day Trip to Catalina Island

Image Source: Love Catalina

Catalina Island is a perfect day trip for a team because it provides a break from the usual work environment, allowing team members to relax and connect in a new setting. Shared experiences during the trip, such as exploring new places and participating in fun activities, help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie. There are numerous team-building activities such as an arboreal obstacle course, an island tour, scavenger hunts and more.

Resources: Catalina Island Group Activities


Top Golf

Image Source: Topgolf

Topgolf is an excellent team building event because it provides an inclusive, relaxed atmosphere that accommodates players of all skill levels, fostering personal connections and improving team morale. The unique blend of competition and entertainment creates an ideal setting for building trust, enhancing communication, and revealing hidden skills among team members. Additionally, Topgolf offers structured team building packages with guided activities, discussion prompts, and lessons on culture, change, collaboration, and strategy, making it a versatile and effective platform for strengthening relationships and boosting overall team performance.

Resources: Topgolf El Segundo


SoFi Stadium Tour

Image Source: Discover LA

A SoFi Stadium tour offers a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of one of the world's most advanced sports venues, allowing team members to explore exclusive areas like premium suites, team locker rooms, and the player tunnel together. The tour provides a shared, memorable experience that can foster camaraderie and spark conversations among team members, regardless of their interest in sports. Additionally, the stadium's state-of-the-art features and impressive architecture can inspire creativity and innovation, while the group setting encourages interaction and collaboration, making it an engaging and enjoyable activity for teams of various sizes and backgrounds

Resources: SoFi Stadium Group Tours


Corporate Volunteering

Image Source: L.A. Works

Volunteer work serves as an excellent team building activity by uniting employees around a shared, meaningful cause, fostering a sense of purpose and collective accomplishment. It provides opportunities for team members to collaborate in new ways, often revealing hidden strengths and leadership qualities that may not be apparent in the regular work environment. Additionally, engaging in community service can boost morale, enhance the company's reputation, and instill a sense of pride among employees, leading to improved workplace relationships and increased job satisfaction.

Resources: Habitat for Humanity, L.A. Works, VolunteerMatch


Corporate Improv Sessions

Image Source: Improv for the People

A corporate improv class encourages spontaneity, creativity, and quick thinking, skills that are valuable in the workplace. It promotes active listening and collaboration, as participants must work together to create scenes and respond to unexpected situations, fostering better communication and trust among team members. Additionally, the playful and often humorous nature of improv helps break down barriers, reduces stress, and creates a shared positive experience that can improve team morale and cohesion long after the event.

Resources: Improv-LA, Groundlings, Improv for the People

🎬 Paramount and Skydance Are Back On
Image Source: Paramount

Happy Friday Los Angeles! Hope you all had a fantastic Fourth!!

🔦 Spotlight

Paramount and Skydance Media have rekindled talks to merge after negotiations abruptly halted in June. The proposed deal, contingent on approval from Paramount’s board, aims to combine Paramount’s extensive media holdings—including CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon—with Skydance’s film expertise showcased in hits like "Top Gun: Maverick." This merger signals a potential transformation in the media landscape, positioning the new entity to compete more effectively amid challenges from streaming services and the decline of traditional cable TV.

Led by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder via National Amusements, the deal represents a pivot towards revitalizing Paramount’s strategic direction amidst financial struggles and shareholder concerns. The involvement of major investors like RedBird Capital Partners and David Ellison underscores the financial backing aimed at stabilizing Paramount’s operations and addressing its $14 billion debt burden. Importantly, the agreement includes provisions to protect National Amusements from potential legal challenges, addressing previous hurdles that stalled earlier negotiations.

The deal also includes a 45-day period for Paramount to explore alternative offers, highlighting continued interest from other potential buyers like Barry Diller’s IAC and media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. This flurry of activity underscores the significant stakeholders’ interest in Paramount’s future and its potential as a key player in a rapidly evolving media industry.


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  • Sidecar Health, a startup that offers personalized health insurance plans to businesses that allow members to see any doctor and pay directly at the time of service, raised a $165M Series D led by Koch Disruptive Technologies. - learn more

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