Asteroid moonlet Dimorphos as seen by the DART spacecraft 11 seconds before impact. Image Credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins APL

Technology USA14. October 2022

We Successfully Moved an Asteroid!

NASA’s experiment to change an asteroid’s trajectory has proven to be a resounding success – gearing us up well, should an asteroid ever head Earth’s way.

“This is a watershed moment for planetary defense and all of humanity,” explains NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “We conducted humanity’s first planetary defense test, and we showed the world that NASA is serious as a defender of this planet.” 

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft traveled eleven million kilometers in ten months to reach and ram into asteroid Dimorphos – orbiting around the asteroid Didymos – on September 26. Scientists were hoping for a 73-second change in its total orbital time. According to the data collected, Dimorphos’s orbit was shortened by 32 minutes, from 11 hours and 55 minutes to 11 hours and 23 minutes, making the impact a huge success. The altered orbit effectively changes the trajectory of the asteroid, proving that this method can be added to the arsenal of defense mechanisms should an asteroid ever finds its way on our planet’s path. No two asteroids are alike – Dimorphos and Didymos are made of an agglomeration of rubble – so the data compiled from DART should become the anchor point for calculations and simulations.

Smithsonian Magazine

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