UNITED STATES: NASA’s DART spacecraft successfully collided with asteroid Dimorphos in the first test of human planetary defence. Scientists expect the impact to alter the asteroid’s orbit.
Even though the asteroid Dimorphos was not in danger of colliding with Earth, this experiment could help scientists figure out how to divert space rocks in the future before they threaten the planet.
The DART team estimates that it will take around two months for scientists to assess whether the asteroid’s orbit changed. The purpose of the mission, in addition to preventing collision, was to affect an asteroid’s path in space.
The collision took place at 7:14 p.m. (ET). The mission team in Laurel, Maryland, applauded the successful mission. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART Mission, was launched ten months ago.
Didymos and Dimorphos were only 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometers) away from Earth when they collided. According to the DART team, the spacecraft collided with the asteroid 55 feet (17 metres) from its center.
According to Robert Braun, director of the Laurel, Maryland-based Space Exploration Sector of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, “We will measurably affect the orbit of a celestial body for the first time ever.”
Asteroids and comets with orbits that bring them within 30 million miles (48.3 million kilometres) of Earth are referred to as near-Earth objects.
The major objective of NASA and other space organisations throughout the world is to find threats from near-Earth objects, or NEOs, that could cause significant harm.
When it collided with Dimorphos, the spacecraft was travelling at a speed of around 13,421 mph (21,600 kph).
The impact crater, which the team estimates to be between 33 and 65 feet (10 and 20 metres) in size, has piqued their curiosity. Even broken fragments of the spaceship could be present in the crater.
NASA astronaut Jessica Meir congratulated the team for the successful mission.
LICIACube, or Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids, a companion cube satellite funded by the Italian Space Agency, captured images of this collision.
The CubeSat, which is about the size of a briefcase, was sent from the spaceship and followed it while recording what happened.
The useful information gathered by DART will help planetary defence tactics, particularly in understanding what magnitude of force might change a near-Earth asteroid’s orbit, which has the likelihood of a collision with Earth.