NASA drops results from world's first test at deflecting an asteroid

NASA has released the results from the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission and if the space agency's planetary defense mission was successful.

NASA drops results from world's first test at deflecting an asteroid
Published Oct 12, 2022 1:35 AM CDT   |   Updated Mon, Oct 31 2022 9:19 AM CDT
2 minutes & 14 seconds read time

NASA has released the results from the world's first planetary defense mission - the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART).

The DART spacecraft was launched in November 2021, and since then, the vending machine-sized spacecraft has been traveling at high speeds to a binary asteroid system with one goal, colliding into an asteroid named Dimorphos.

The 525-foot-wide asteroid named Dimorphos orbits its larger companion asteroid Didymos, and NASA's goal was to demonstrate the very first planetary defense mission using a kinetic impactor, which essentially means testing out if colliding a high-speed spacecraft into Dimorphos will alter its orbit around Didymos.

The space agency announced on September 26 that the collision was successful as the DART spacecraft relayed a series of images seconds before impact, showcasing a close-up of the asteroid's surface. It should be noted that Dimorphos and Didymos pose no threat to Earth at all, and are located millions of miles away from the planet.

NASA's DART mission was simply a test to see if the technique would work. During the DART spacecraft's journey, its onboard camera called the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical navigation, or DRACO, snapped several images of planets in our solar system as well as the binary asteroid system.

"All of us have a responsibility to protect our home planet. After all, it's the only one we have. 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," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

As for the results, NASA, along with numerous astronomers from around the world, have pointed their instruments at Dimorphos to see if the test was a success. NASA stated prior to launch that if Dimorphos' orbit is changed by 73 seconds or more the mission would be an overall success. Notably, Dimorphos' orbit around its larger companion asteroid was measured at 11 hours and 55 minutes, and after the impact of the DART spacecraft, NASA has stated Dimorphos' orbit is 11 hours and 23 minutes, meaning the impact reduced the asteroid's orbit by 32 minutes and the mission was a gigantic success.

"This result is one important step toward understanding the full effect of DART's impact with its target asteroid. As new data come in each day, astronomers will be able to better assess whether, and how, a mission like DART could be used in the future to help protect Earth from a collision with an asteroid if we ever discover one headed our way," said Lori Glaze, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

NASA took to its blog to congratulate the DART team and how the DART spacecraft's impact surpassed the minimum mission success requirement by a staggering 25 times. Since the mission was a success, NASA now has the very first proven planetary defense technique under its belt and will be able to deflect any asteroid of a similar caliber to Dimorphos from impacting Earth.

NEWS SOURCE:nasa.gov

Jak joined the TweakTown team in 2017 and has since reviewed 100s of new tech products and kept us informed daily on the latest science and space news. Jak's love for science, space, and technology, and, more specifically, PC gaming, began at 10 years old. It was the day his dad showed him how to play Age of Empires on an old Compaq PC. Ever since that day, Jak fell in love with games and the progression of the technology industry in all its forms. Instead of typical FPS, Jak holds a very special spot in his heart for RTS games.

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