NASA’s DART mission crashes into an asteroid and marks a resounding success
In humanity’s first test of planetary defense, a NASA spacecraft deliberately collided with an asteroid.
At 7:14 p.m. ET, the impact occurred. The mission crew in Laurel, Maryland, welcomed the crash with applause. DART, or the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, was launched ten months ago.
While the asteroid Dimorphos was not in danger of colliding with Earth, this experiment might help scientists figure out how to deflect space objects in the future.
“We’re embarking on a new era of humankind, an era in which we potentially have the capability to protect ourselves from something like a dangerous, hazardous asteroid impact,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. “What an amazing thing. We’ve never had that capability before.”
Dimorphos wes 11 million kilometers from Earth at the time of the crash. The team believes the spacecraft collided with the asteroid around 17 meters from its core.
The spacecraft’s purpose, in addition to striking, is to influence the path of an asteroid in space, but DART team members estimate that it will take around two months for scientists to evaluate if the asteroid’s orbit has altered.
The event was the agency’s first full-scale demonstration of planet-saving deflection technology.
The European Space Agency’s Hera mission will arrive in four years to examine Dimorphos. The mission will examine the moon’s physical features as well as its orbit and the DART impact.
There are presently no asteroids on a direct collision trajectory with Earth, although there are over 27,000 near-Earth asteroids of all shapes and sizes.
DART and Hera’s rich data will help planetary security efforts, particularly knowing what type of force might modify the orbit of a near-Earth asteroid with the potential to collide with our planet.