NASA’s DART Mission Changes The Trajectory Of An Asteroid

NASA claimed that this was the first time mankind has intentionally changed the motion of any celestial object. This is also a demonstration of asteroid deflection technology.

NASA has confirmed that their Double Asteroid Redirection Test was able to alter an asteroid’s orbit by smashing into it at high speeds.

Last month, DART completed its 10-month journey. It successfully collided with the asteroid Dimorphous during humanity’s initial planetary defense test.

DART’s mission was designed to test whether an asteroid could be moved by colliding with it using a technique known as kinetic impact.

NASA stated that Dimorphous needed 11 hours and 55 minutes for Didymus to orbit it. A team of investigators confirmed that Dimorphous’ orbit was reduced by 32 minutes following the collision.

NASA claimed that this was humanity’s first purposely altering the motion of a celestial body, and the first full-scale demonstration of asteroid deflection tech.

NASA administrator Bill Nelson said that everyone has a responsibility for protecting our home planet. “It’s the only one we can have. This is a momentous occasion for planetary defense and all humanity. It’s a demonstration of the commitment of NASA’s outstanding team and partners from around the world.”

NASA stated that a successful Dimorphous orbit change would take at least 73 seconds. DART’s initial data suggests that it exceeded the minimum benchmark by more than 25 times.

The ground-based observatories from around the globe are still providing data to the investigation team. NASA indicated that NASA’s focus shifted to measuring momentum transfer after DART’s approximately 22,500kph collision.

This includes the analysis of ‘ejecta,’ which are bits of asteroid rocks that have been displaced and launched into the atmosphere by the impact. NASA claimed that Dimorphous’ push against DART was significantly aided by the recoil caused by this explosion of debris.

Lori Glaze from NASA’s planetary science division said that the result is “an important step” toward understanding the full effects of the kinetic impacts.

Glaze stated that “astronomers will be able better assess whether and how a mission like DART could be used in future to protect Earth against a collision with an asteroid if one is discovered.”

To capture DART’s impact, last month the Hubble Space Telescope was joined by the James Webb Space Telescope. Hubble and Webb are using their instruments to understand the asteroid’s chemical composition, while Hubble watches how the ejecta cloud changes over time.