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NASA Crashes DART Spacecraft Into Asteroid as Part of Planetary Defense Demo

Planetary defense

NASA Crashes DART Spacecraft Into Asteroid as Part of Planetary Defense Demo

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft hit the asteroid moonlet Dimorphos on Monday. The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory confirmed the event, which demonstrated a technique that changes the course of a space rock as part of NASA’s planetary defense strategy. Having the capability to deflect an asteroid could protect Earth in case a space object threatens the planet in the future, NASA said.

Dimorphos orbits the larger Didymos asteroid. Researchers expect the collision to reduce the moonlet’s orbit by about 1 percent or roughly 10 minutes. “Just a small change in its speed is all we need to make a significant difference in the path an asteroid travels,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA. The space agency will use ground-based telescopes to monitor Dimorphos and confirm that DART’s impact altered its orbit.

NASA previously said that scientists selected the Didymos system for the test because its relative proximity to Earth and dual-asteroid configuration will enable them to observe the intentional collision results.

The European Space Agency is also monitoring the DART asteroid impact. According to Marco Micheli, an astronomer at ESA’s NEO Coordination Center, the agency will work with NASA to analyze and extract valuable scientific information.

ESA is currently developing the Milani spacecraft for its Hera planetary defense mission to study the effect of the DART demonstration. Tyvak International is tasked with building Milani slated for launch in 2024.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the DART mission in November 2021 from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The satellite is equipped with the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical navigation; a guidance, navigation and control system; and Small-body Maneuvering Autonomous Real Time Navigation algorithms.

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Category: Space