NASA strikes asteroid with spacecraft in historic planetary defense mission

Source: The Hill | September 26, 2022 | Brad Dress

NASA on Monday successfully struck a tiny asteroid more than 7 million miles from Earth with a 1,000-pound spacecraft, completing the world’s first planetary defense mission.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft slammed into the asteroid Dimorphos at roughly 7:14 p.m. ET at a speed of more than 14,000 miles per hour.

It’s the first time humanity has ever purposefully struck an object in space. NASA and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory officials who have been working on the DART mission for years erupted into applause as soon as the spacecraft collided with Dimorphos.

DART first launched into space last November, so the mission’s success completes a 10-month flight toward Dimorphos, an asteroid that weighs around 5 billion kilograms.

Dimorphos is part of the binary asteroid system Didymos, which means twin in Greek. In its system, Dimorphos orbits the larger asteroid Didymos.

While neither Dimorphos nor Didymos posed a threat to Earth, the DART mission serves as a key test of deflecting a future asteroid or space object that could threaten the planet.


The DART spacecraft likely obliterated upon impact and its debris likely scattered across space or lodged into the asteroid, the team said. It’s possible the spacecraft created a 10-meter or 20-meter crater in Dimorphos.

The DART team estimated they would have a full assessment on the collision in about two months, including details of how much the spacecraft pushed the asteroid out of its orbit. NASA and APL were hoping to change the orbit of Dimorphos by several minutes.

Observatory teams using ground-based telescopes may discuss individual results in the coming days. The European Space Agency has a follow up mission called Hera, which will launch a spacecraft toward Didymos in 2024. The spacecraft should arrive in 2026 and provide greater detail about the collision.


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