In the first planetary defense test, a NASA DART spacecraft successfully slid into Asteroid dimorphos

In the first planetary defense test, a NASA DART spacecraft successfully slid into Asteroid dimorpho ...

In the world''s first test of a planetary defense system, NASA''s DART spacecraft successfully slammed into a distant asteroid at hypersonic speed on Monday. The threat of a possible doomsday meteorite collision with Earth

10 months after DART was launched, Humanity''s first attempt to alter the motion of an asteroid or any celestial body was discovered in a NASA webcast.

At 7:14 pm EDT (23:14 GMT), DART''s camera recorded images of a cube-shaped "impactor" car with two rectangular solar arrays, streaked into the asteroid Dimorphos, about the size of a football stadium, on the livestream. It is about 6.8 million miles (11 million km) from Earth.

IMPACT SUCCESS! Watch from #DRACO Camera, a vending machine-sized spacecraft, successfully collides with the asteroid Dimorphos, which is the size of a football stadium and poses no threat to Earth.

The $330 million (about Rs. 2,683 crore) project, which is currently underway, was designed to determine if a spacecraft is capable of changing the trajectory of an asteroid through sheer kinetic force, noting it off course just enough to keep Earth out of harm''s way.

Only further ground-based telescope observations of the asteroid will be revealed if the experiment succeeded beyond its intended impact. However, NASA officials applaud the immediate outcome of Monday''s experiment, declaring that the spacecraft achieved its objective.

  • NASA''''s DART Spacecraft to Attempt Deflecting the Path of Asteroid Dimorphos

"NASA is designed to serve the needs of humanity, so for us it is the ultimate fulfillment of our mission to do something similar - a technology demonstration that, who knows, might in some day save our house," says NASA''s deputy director Pam Melroy, who is a retired astronaut.

DART, launched by a SpaceX rocket in November 2021, completed its most-time voyage under NASA''s flight directors, with control assigned to an autonomous on-board navigation system in the final hours of the journey.

The bullseye impact on Monday evening was recorded in near real time from the mission operations center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

As second-by-second images of the target asteroid, captured by DART''s onboard camera, splintered and finally filled the television screen of NASA''s live webcast just before the signal was lost, confirming the spacecraft had crashed into Dimorphos.

DART''s celestial goal was a 5.5-inch asteroid "moonlet" that is about 560 feet (170 meters) in diameter, forming a parent asteroid five times larger, called Didymos, as part of a binary pair with the same name, the Greek word for twin.

Both objects present a real threat to Earth, and NASA scientists believe that their DART scan might not create a new threat by mistake.

Dimorphos and Didymos are both small compared to the cataclysmic Chicxulub asteroid that struck Earth 66 million years ago, disseminating three-quarters of the world''s plant and animal genus, including the dinosaurs.

According to NASA scientists and planetary defense experts, smaller asteroids are more common and may cause greater theoretical concern in the near future. A Dimorphos-sized asteroid, although it isn''t capable of posing a planet-wide threat, might even poison a large city.

Aside from their relative proximity to Earth and their double configuration, the two asteroids make them ideal for the first proof-of-concept mission of DART, short for the Double Asteroid Redirection Test.

A robotic suicide project is being launched.

DART flies directly into Dimorphos at 15,000 miles per hour (24,000 kph), bringing the force scientists hope will be enough to move its orbital track closer to the parent asteroid.

Engineers at APL claimed the spacecraft was reportedly smashed to bits and left a small impact crater in the boulder-strewn surface of the asteroid.

If one was ever discovered, the DART team said it expects to shorten the orbital path of Dimorphos by 10 minutes, but would consider at least 73 seconds a success. Using the exercise as a viable technique to deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth

A snag to an asteroid millions of miles away sooner might suffice to reroute it safely.

Earlier measurements of Dimorphos'' starting location and orbital period were made during a six-day observation period in July and will be compared to post-impact measurements made in October to determine whether the asteroid was budged and how much.

A camera mounted on a smallcase-sized mini-spacecraft that was released from DART days in advance, as well as ground-based observatories and the Hubble and Webb space telescopes, was not immediately available.

DART is the latest of several NASA launches to investigate and interact with asteroids and primordial rocky remnants from the solar system''s formation more than 4.5 billion years ago.

NASA launched a probe on a voyage to the Trojan asteroid clusters near Jupiter, while the grab-and-go spacecraft OSIRIS-REx is returning to Earth with a sample from the asteroid Bennu in October 2020.

The Dimorphos moonlet is one of NASA''s most popular near-Earth asteroids of all sizes. Although none of them is known to pose a potentially catastrophic threat to mankind, NASA believes that many additional asteroids remain undetected in the near-Earth vicinity.

Thomson Reuters, 2022