In a one-of-its-kind mission, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft has successfully changed the path of the asteroid Dimorphos by crashing into it. This was NASA’s test mission to change the motion of a celestial object, marking humanity’s first full-scale demonstration of asteroid deflection technology.
“All of us have a responsibility to protect our home planet. After all, it’s the only one 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 we are serious as a defender of the planet. This is a watershed moment for planetary defense and all of humanity, demonstrating commitment from NASA’s exceptional team and partners from around the world.”
This just in: The #DARTmission impact is confirmed to have changed the orbit of moonlet Dimorphos around its asteroid Didymos.
— NASA (@NASA) October 11, 2022
Scientists at the space agency have confirmed the orbit of a 160m-wide (520ft) space rock ‘Dimorphos’ was altered when the Dart spacecraft struck it in September. Prior to DART’s impact, Dimorphos took 11 hours and 55 minutes to orbit its larger parent asteroid, Didymos. Following DART’s collision with Dimorphos on September 26, astronomers have found that the spacecraft’s impact altered Dimorphos’ orbit around Didymos by 32 minutes, shortening the 11-hour and 55-minute orbit to 11 hours and 23 minutes. This measurement has a margin of uncertainty of approximately plus or minus 2 minutes, notes NASA in its blog.
NASA predicted a minimum successful orbit period change of Dimorphos as a change of 73 seconds or more. This early data show DART surpassed this minimum benchmark by more than 25 times. The investigation team is still acquiring data from ground-based observatories around the world. Neither Dimorphos nor Didymos poses any hazard to Earth before or after DART’s controlled collision with Dimorphous.