NASA’s DART Hits Asteroid in Planetary Defense Test
NASA's DART spacecraft successfully slammed into a distant asteroid at hypersonic speed in the world's first test of a planetary defense system.
After 10 months flying in space, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) – the world’s first planetary defense technology demonstration – successfully impacted its asteroid target on September 26, 2022, the agency’s first attempt to move an asteroid in space.
As a part of NASA’s overall planetary defense strategy, DART’s impact with the asteroid Dimorphos demonstrates a viable mitigation technique for protecting the planet from an Earth-bound asteroid or comet, if one were discovered.
DART targeted the asteroid moonlet Dimorphos, a small body just 530 feet (160 meters) in diameter. It orbits a larger, 2,560-foot (780-meter) asteroid called Didymos.
The mission’s one-way trip confirmed NASA can successfully navigate a spacecraft to intentionally collide with an asteroid to deflect it.
Researchers expect the impact to shorten Dimorphos’ orbit by about 1%, or roughly 10 minutes; precisely measuring how much the asteroid was deflected is one of the primary purposes of the full-scale test.
Just a small change in its speed is needed to make a significant difference in the path an asteroid travels.
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