Space & Astronomy
NASA confirms success of DART probe planetary defense test
By T.K. Randall
October 14, 2022 · 48 comments
It worked! But does this mean that we are truly safe from asteroid strikes ? Image Credit: NASA
The space agency has confirmed that its recent mission successfully altered the trajectory of the target asteroid.
Launched back in November 2021, DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) was designed to test if it is possible to deflect a dangerous incoming asteroid by deliberately flying a spacecraft straight into it.
For the mission, scientists chose to send the probe to collide with Dimorphos - a moon of the asteroid Didymos - which measures around 160 meters across and poses no actual threat to the Earth.
Back in September, DART arrived at its destination and smashed headlong into the space rock at 14,000mph, leaving NASA scientists with the task of analyzing the scene to find out whether the impact had actually changed the trajectory of the asteroid as hoped.
Now, at last, the space agency has confirmed that, yes - the collision did in fact have the desired effect.
It's an important achievement, because it means that if we were looking down the barrel of an apocalyptic asteroid heading straight towards us, we might just be able to do something about it.
"This mission shows that NASA is trying to be ready for whatever the universe throws at us," said NASA's administrator Bill Nelson.
"I believe that NASA has proven that we are serious as a defender of the planet."
While the mission's success is certainly encouraging, it's important to remember that Dimorphos was very small and that changing the trajectory of a very large asteroid would be a lot more difficult.
It would also be necessary to detect the incoming space rock soon enough to allow for time to design and launch a mission to deflect it.
Even so, the DART mission is very much a step in the right direction.
Source: BBC News
| Comments (48)