NASA announced that its DART mission is successful. The outer space mission was made to test if Earth’s technology is able to knock off an asteroid off its course.
The mission, if successful, ensures that our planet is capable of defending ourselves from external threats such as asteroids and other heavenly bodies on course to collide with our planet.
DART stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test and it uses an operated space machine that would make impact with an asteroid to test if it’s capable of knocking it off course.
The asteroid is called Dimorphos, a large chunk of space rock that is orbiting a larger asteroid named Didymos. The asteroid is around million miles from earth.
The smaller asteroid makes a full revolution around the bigger asteroid in about 11 hours and 55 minutes. The DART Mission intends to change the orbit of the smaller asteroid so the time it takes to make a full revolution is altered.
“We’re moving an asteroid. We are changing the motion of a natural celestial body in space. Humanity has never done that before. This is stuff of science fiction books and really corny episodes of Star Trek from when I was a kid, and now it’s real. And that’s kind of astonishing that we are actually doing that, and what that bodes for the future of what we can do,” stated Tom Statler, a DART program scientist.
“It’s something that we need to get done so that we know what’s out there and know what’s coming and have adequate time to prepare for it,” added Lindley Johnson, Planetary Defense Officer at NASA.
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After the DART craft made collision with Dimorphos two weeks ago, scientists at NASA found that the time has been shortened to 11 hours and 23 minutes, showing a 32-minute change in orbit.
“This is a watershed moment for defense. This mission shows that NASA is trying to be ready for whatever the universe throws at us,” said NASA Administration Bill Nelson.
NASA clarified that the asteroid does not pose any threat to the earth and people should not worry that the agency is trampling upon a space rock.
The mission was done only to test if the Earth is capable of defending itself in case there are real threats of heavenly bodies trying to make direct impact to us.
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An advancement for planetary defense
“For the first time ever, humanity has changed the orbit of a planetary body,” said the Planetary Science Division director at NASA, Lori Glaze.
NASA explained that the mission was successful due to the change of the time Dimorphos took to revolve its bigger counterpart. And it is made possible through the kinetic force generated when the spacecraft made the impact with Dimorphos.
Scientists made sure that a change was apparent through relentless viewing and observation of the asteroid the moment the DART spacecraft made impact.
“The bottom line is, it’s a great thing. Someday, we are going to find an asteroid which has a high probability of hitting the Earth, and we are going to want to deflect it. When that happens, we should have, in advance, some experience knowing that this would work,” said Ed Lu, Asteroid Institute executive director.
Photo Credit: NASA