Back to the net! NASA’s DART spacecraft hit the asteroid hard enough to change its course

This image from ASI’s LICIACube shows the ejecta plumes streaming from the asteroid Dimorphos after the impact of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirect Test, or DART mission, on September 27, 2022. © NASA/ASI/ASL

On September 27, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft scored a direct hit on its target asteroid, Dimorphos. Now, after three weeks of data collection and analysis, the space agency has announced that the collision successfully knocked the asteroid off course.

The success marks the first time humanity has altered the motion of a celestial object and is a major step forward in defending Earth from a potentially catastrophic asteroid impact.

“We all have a responsibility to protect our planet. After all, it’s all we have,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

“This mission shows that NASA is trying to be ready for whatever the Universe throws at us. NASA has proven that we are serious as a defender of the planet. This is a watershed moment for planetary defense and all of humanity, demonstrating the commitment of the extraordinary team at NASA and its partners around the world.”

After the impact, telescopes based here on Earth were trained on the asteroid to determine how much its orbit around its companion asteroid, Gemini, had changed.

The DART research team has now confirmed that the impact shaved 32 minutes off the orbit time, reducing it from 11 hours 55 minutes to 11 hours 23 minutes.

While this may not be particularly significant, even the smallest nudges can drastically change an asteroid’s path due to the long distances they travel.

“This result is an important step toward understanding the full impact of DART’s impact with its asteroid target,” said Dr. Laurie Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

“With new data coming in every day, astronomers will be able to better assess whether and how a mission like DART could be used in the future to help protect Earth from a collision with an asteroid if we find one headed our way.” part of us. “

The team is still gathering data on the crash and hopes to reveal more details about the impact.

“DART has given us some fascinating data on both the properties of asteroids and the effectiveness of a kinetic impactor as a planetary defense technology,” said Dr. Nancy Chabot, DART coordinator from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland.

“The DART team continues to work on this rich data set to fully understand this first test of planetary asteroid deflection defense.”

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