NASA Lands Bullseye In Historic Asteroid Redirection Test

Successfully crashing its DART spacecraft at 15,000 mph.

Tech
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On September 26, 7:14 p.m. EDT, NASA‘s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) successfully impacted its asteroid target after 10 months of flying in space. The mission is the world’s first planetary defense technology demonstration and the first-ever attempt to move an asteroid in space.

“At its core, DART represents an unprecedented success for planetary defense, but it is also a mission of unity with a real benefit for all humanity,” commented NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “As NASA studies the cosmos and our home planet, we’re also working to protect that home, and this international collaboration turned science fiction into science fact, demonstrating one way to protect Earth.”

For the demonstration, DART targeted a 530-foot asteroid moonlet named Dimorphos which orbits a much larger 2,560-foot asteroid called Didymos. Following the impact, researchers expect Dimorphos’ orbit to shorten by approximately 1 percent or 10 minutes.

“Now we know we can aim a spacecraft with the precision needed to impact even a small body in space,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Just a small change in its speed is all we need to make a significant difference in the path an asteroid travels.”

While the asteroids didn’t pose any threat to earth this time around, NASA hopes the new planetary defense tool can help prevent potentially cataclysmic collisions from hazardous Earth-bound asteroids. More than three dozen telescopes around the world will track the Didymos-Dimorphos asteroid system in the coming months to better understand the effects of the test. The European Space Agency also plans to send its own spacecraft to Didymos-Dimorphos in 2024 which will orbit the asteroid system while studying the debris and crater created by the DART mission.

“As far as we can tell, our first planetary defense test was a success,” said Elena Adams, DART’s mission systems engineer after the successful crash. “I think Earthlings should sleep better. Definitely, I will.”

In other news, Nothing unveils new Ear (Stick) earbuds.

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