In what reads like a science fiction report, NASA’s Double Asteroid REDirection Test (DART) – the world’s first “planetary defense” technology demonstration – claims to have successfully targeted its asteroid on Monday, after 10 months flying in space. It was the agency’s first attempt to hit an asteroid with a rocket.
The video of the impact can be seen below, another CGI space mission accomplished!
NASA’s says the impact of the DART space probe in its collision with the asteroid Dimorphos is a good demonstration of using astrodynamics to protect Earth against space objects. This can be done by executing trajectories based on their orbit and speed which will prevent them from getting to Earth.
“At its core, DART represents an unprecedented success for planetary defense, but it is also a mission of unity with a real benefit for all humanity,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “As NASA studies the cosmos and our home planet, we’re also working to protect that home, and this international collaboration turned science fiction into science fact, demonstrating one way to protect Earth.”
While NASA alleges neither of the effected asteroids pose a threat to earth the DART supposedly targeted a small asteroid moonlet around a larger, 2,560-foot (780-meter) asteroid.
They claim the one-way trip to the asteroid confirmed NASA can successfully navigate a spacecraft to intentionally collide with it in order to deflect it, which is not much different from what kinetic impact involves.
The investigation team will now observe Dimorphos using ground-based telescopes to confirm that DART’s impact changed the asteroid’s orbit around Didymos. Researchers expect the impact to shorten Dimorphos’ orbit by about 1%, or roughly 10 minutes, which will be precisely measured through more testing.
“Planetary Defense is a globally unifying effort that affects everyone living on Earth,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Now we know we can aim a spacecraft with the precision needed to impact even a small body in space. Just a small change in its speed is all we need to make a significant difference in the path an asteroid travels.”
These systems guided the 1,260-pound (570-kilogram) box-shaped spacecraft through the final 56,000 miles (90,000 kilometers) of space into Dimorphos, intentionally crashing into it at roughly 14,000 miles (22,530 kilometers) per hour to slightly slow the asteroid’s orbital speed. DRACO’s final images, obtained by the spacecraft seconds before impact, revealed the surface of Dimorphos in close-up detail.
“DART’s success provides a significant addition to the essential toolbox we must have to protect Earth from a devastating impact by an asteroid,” said Lindley Johnson, NASA’s Planetary Defense Officer. “This demonstrates we are no longer powerless to prevent this type of natural disaster. Coupled with enhanced capabilities to accelerate finding the remaining hazardous asteroid population by our next Planetary Defense mission, the Near-Earth Object (NEO) Surveyor, a DART successor could provide what we need to save the day.”
China also claims they could save the planet from a potential asteroid strike with its Long March 5 rockets. If they wanted to save the planet, they’d crash it into the WEF.
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