The world’s first planetary defense technology demonstration, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), successfully impacted its asteroid target on Monday after spending 10 months in space.
The world’s first planetary defense system, intended to avoid a cataclysmic collision with Earth, was tested on Monday as NASA’s asteroid-deflecting DART spacecraft approached a planned hit with its target ten months after launch. The “impactor” vehicle, which had a cube shape and was about the size of a vending machine and had two rectangular solar arrays, was planned to fly into the asteroid Dimorphos, which was about the size of a football stadium, and then explode 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometers) from Earth at 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT). In the mission’s culmination, a spaceship will be put to the test to see if it can change an asteroid’s trajectory using only kinetic force by slamming into it at high speed to shove it just far enough away from Earth. It represents the first-ever attempt to alter the trajectory of an asteroid or any other celestial entity. The majority of DART’s journey has been traveled under the direction of NASA’s flight directors. In the closing hours of the mission, however, control will be transferred to an autonomous onboard navigation system. DART was launched by a SpaceX rocket in November 2021. The intended impact is scheduled to be tracked in real-time from the mission operations center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, on Monday evening. As part of a binary pair with the same name—the Greek word for twin—celestial DART’s target is an asteroid “moonlet” with a diameter of roughly 560 feet (170 meters) that orbits a parent asteroid five times larger and is known as Didymos. According to NASA scientists, neither object actually poses a threat to Earth, and their DART test cannot accidentally produce a new existential hazard. When compared to the catastrophic Chicxulub asteroid that struck Earth 66 million years ago and wiped out around three-quarters of the world’s plant and animal life, including the dinosaurs, Dimorphos and Didymos are both insignificant. According to NASA scientists and planetary security specialists, the Didymos duo are excellent test subjects because of their size because smaller asteroids are much more frequent and theoretically present a higher immediate threat. They are also perfect for DART, or Double Asteroid Redirection Test, the first proof-of-concept mission due to their relative proximity to Earth and dual-asteroid configuration. ROBOTIC SUICIDE MISSION … Read more