After 10 months in space, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirect Test ( DART ) – the world’s first planetary defense technology test – and the spacecraft responsible for its test mission successfully impacted its target asteroid, marking NASA’s first attempt to move an asteroid in space.
(Video of the last moments of the DART test impact on the asteroid)
The asteroid targeted by DART is called Dimorphos, an asteroid only 160 meters in diameter. It orbits a larger one, called Didymos, a 780-meter diameter asteroid. The two asteroids are being tested at a distance of about 11 million kilometers from Earth to ensure that the tests do not pose a threat to the planet.
The survey team will now use ground-based telescopes to observe Dimorphos to confirm that the DART impact changed the asteroid’s orbit around Didymus. Researchers expect the impact to shorten Dimorphos’ orbit by about 1 percent, or about 10 minutes.
As part of NASA’s Global Planetary Defense Strategy, DART technology with impact data from the asteroid Dimorphus will demonstrate a viable space defense technology that could protect Earth from an asteroid or comet.
“In essence, DART represents an unprecedented success for planetary defense, and it is a mission that can unite all of humanity,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “As NASA studies the universe and our planet and we work to protect our home, DART has turned science fiction into science fact with the collaborative efforts of nations to show us a way to protect our planet.”
Thomas Zurbuchen, deputy director of the Science Mission Council at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., said, “Planetary defense is a technology that the world should collaborate on, and it affects everyone on Earth.”
In about four years, ESA’s Hera mission will conduct a detailed survey of the two asteroids, specifically the condition of the craters left by the DART impact, and a precise determination of the mass of Dimorphos.
The reason for the disappearance of the dinosaurs, the Earth’s former overlords, may be the asteroid impact on Earth.
It may not be now, and it may not be in the near future, but as long as we wait long enough, there will always be a planet to crash into the Earth, and it is not the romance of the universe to knock an asteroid out of its original orbit, but it is the wisdom of mankind to plan ahead and continue civilization.
DART | NASA