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NASA Marks Another Step Forward in Planetary Defense with Success of DART Mission


NASA declared the DART mission’s success. An asteroid’s ability to be deflected off course by technologies developed on Earth was the purpose of the space expedition.

If the mission is successful, it will ensure that our planet can protect itself from external threats like asteroids and other celestial bodies heading directly for our globe.

Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, tests the ability of a spacecraft to divert an asteroid by impacting it with an asteroid. Dimorphos, a sizable piece of an asteroid in orbit around Didymos, a bigger asteroid. Nearly one million kilometers separate the planet and the asteroid.

About 11 hours and 55 minutes pass between the smaller and larger asteroids as they complete one full rotation. By altering the smaller asteroid’s orbit, the DART Mission hopes to shorten the time it takes for a complete rotation.

“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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The mission is a success

Following the collision between the DART ship and Dimorphos two weeks ago, NASA scientists discovered that the time had been cut down to 11 hours and 23 minutes, indicating a 32-minute adjustment 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 stated that the asteroid poses no threat to Earth and that people should not be concerned that the agency is treading on a space rock. The mission was only carried out to see if the Earth is capable of protecting itself in the event of severe threats from celestial bodies attempting to make a direct impact on us.

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An advantage 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.

When compared to its larger counterpart, Dimorphos took a different amount of time to revolve, according to NASA, making the mission successful. The kinetic force produced when the spaceship collided with Dimorphos also enabled it. The asteroid was relentlessly monitored and observed by scientists until the DART mission made contact, ensuring that a change was obviously evident.

“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

Source: NPR

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