NASA has confirmed the DART mission’s success. The goal of the space mission was to see if we could use technology from Earth to divert an asteroid off its intended route.
If the mission is successful, it will guarantee that our planet can protect itself from outside threats like asteroids and other celestial bodies headed straight for our globe.
DART, which stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, tests the ability of a spacecraft to deflect an asteroid by simulating a collision with one. The asteroid Dimorphos is a sizable piece of space rock that orbits Didymos, a bigger asteroid. A million miles or so separate the asteroid from the planet.
It takes the smaller asteroid approximately 11 hours and 55 minutes to complete one full rotation around the larger asteroid. However, the smaller asteroid’s orbit will be adjusted by the DART Mission, which will shorten the time it takes to complete one rotation.
“We’re moving an asteroid. We are changing the motion of a natural celestial body in space. Humanity has never done that before. This is stuff of science fiction books and really corny episodes of Star Trek from when I was a kid, and now it’s real. And that’s kind of astonishing that we are actually doing that, and what that bodes for the future of what we can do,” stated Tom Statler, a DART program scientist.
“It’s something that we need to get done so that we know what’s out there and know what’s coming and have adequate time to prepare for it,” added Lindley Johnson, Planetary Defense Officer at NASA.
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The mission was a success
NASA researchers discovered that the time had been cut down to 11 hours and 23 minutes, indicating a 32-minute alteration in orbit, following the DART craft’s crash with Dimorphos two weeks earlier.
“This is a watershed moment for defense. This mission shows that NASA is trying to be ready for whatever the universe throws at us,” said NASA Administration Bill Nelson.
People shouldn’t be concerned that NASA is stepping on an asteroid because, as the space agency explained, it does not harm the world. Instead, the expedition aimed to determine whether or not the Earth could protect itself in the event that celestial bodies tried to strike us directly.
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A step forward for planetary defense
“For the first time ever, humanity has changed the orbit of a planetary body,” said the Planetary Science Division director at NASA, Lori Glaze.
Because Dimorphos took a different amount of time to rotate around its larger counterpart, according to NASA, the mission was successful. It is also made feasible by the kinetic force produced when the spaceship collides with Dimorphos. By closely monitoring the asteroid after the DART mission made contact, scientists made sure that a change was immediately visible.
“The bottom line is, it’s a great thing. Someday, we are going to find an asteroid which has a high probability of hitting the Earth, and we are going to want to deflect it. When that happens, we should have, in advance, some experience knowing that this would work,” said Ed Lu, Asteroid Institute executive director.
Photo Credit: NASA
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