The first ever planetary defense test involves NASA crashing the DART spacecraft with an asteroid.


The first ever planetary defense test involves NASA crashing the DART spacecraft with an asteroid. NASA’s Double Asteroid Rendezvous Test (DART) probe collided with a minor asteroid tonight (Sept. 26) at a distance of 7 million miles (11 million kilometres), in what the American space agency has dubbed the first planetary defense test ever conducted.

The objective was to demonstrate that humans were capable of deflecting a hazardous asteroid if one were heading for Earth by altering the orbit of the space rock Dimorphos around its larger asteroid parent Didymos.

Elena Adams, DART’s mission systems engineer here at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL), declared following the successful crash, “As far as we can determine, our first planetary defense test was a success.” “I believe that humans should get more rest. I most certainly will.”

The enormous Chicxulub asteroid that blasted into the Yucatan Peninsula 65 million years ago and caused their demise prevented the dinosaurs from doing that.

Before the collapse, Katherine Calvin, NASA’s top scientist, and senior climate advisor said, “The dinosaurs didn’t have a space program to save them, but we have.” Therefore, DART represents a significant advancement in our understanding of future threats and methods for defending the earth against potential harm.

At 7:14 p.m. EDT (2314 GMT), the golf cart-sized DART spacecraft blasted with Dimorphos while traveling at a staggering 14,000 mph (22,500 kph). Although the spacecraft wasn’t particularly enormous by probe standards, NASA thought that its 1,320 pounds (600 kilograms) of thrust would be sufficient to help the 534-foot-wide (163 meters) Dimorphos orbit its parent a little bit more quickly.

Before the impact, planetary scientist Nancy Chabot, DART coordination lead at JHUAPL, which manages the mission for NASA, remarked, “The spacecraft is quite little.” We occasionally compare it to driving a golf cart into the Great Pyramid.

At DART’s mission control facility at JHUAPL, there was a mixture of calm and suspense as the spacecraft rushed towards its demise, despite the on-target crash. Engineers had 21 different backup plans in their back pockets, but none of them had to be used during the crash because nothing went wrong.

The last four hours of DART were largely automated, with the navigation system of the spacecraft locking on to Dimorphos in the final hour of approach. Until the broadcast went dark as the spacecraft collided with the asteroid, DART’s main camera transmitted a picture to Earth every second.

A spacecraft is destroyed to protect the planet.

The DART mission is the first example of a “kinetic impactor,” as described by NASA, for planetary defense, which involves smashing a spacecraft into an asteroid to alter its orbit. If an asteroid that might be hazardous were discovered five or ten years before to a potential impact, there is a simple way to protect the Earth.

“A natural celestial body’s motion in space is being altered by us. That has never been done by humanity before “said Tom Statler, a scientist for NASA’s DART program. When I was a kid, I used to watch pretty cheesy episodes of “Star Trek,” but now it’s actually happening.

According to NASA scientists, there is a small but genuine chance that an asteroid would strike Earth catastrophically. NASA frequently searches the sky for new asteroids and has discovered around 40% of those that potentially threaten Earth and are as wide as 500 feet (140 metres).

The Near Earth Object Surveyor is a brand-new space telescope sentinel that NASA is creating specifically to look for potentially dangerous asteroids in the solar system. By 2026, that mission might get underway.

According to NASA, it took incredible engineering to hit Dimorphos, with the DART spacecraft delivering a picture every second as it approached its target.

There were other bystanders who saw the spacecraft explode. To follow in its path and watch the asteroid smash, DART launched a tiny CubeSat named LICIACube weeks in advance of the impact. Photos taken by the CubeSat should reach Earth in the days following the impact and show up-close views of the crash and the debris that Dimorphos’ ejecta sent up.

Was the first test of planetary defense by humans a success?

From their separate vantage points throughout the solar system, NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Lucy spacecraft on its own asteroid mission all monitored the collision. In order to determine how much quicker Dimorphos is currently traveling in its orbit, a massive network of ground-based telescopes on Earth was aimed at the event and will be monitoring it over time.

Our specifications call for 73 seconds, but Statler replied, “We actually anticipate we’re going to adjust by about 10 minutes.”

It will take some time to determine whether the planetary defense test of the DART impact was successful.

Thomas referred to the quantity of ground-based telescope crews as “a lot of them.” “I’ve lost track, which is quite thrilling.”

In order to investigate DART’s impact, the European Space Agency is preparing its own mission to the Didymos-Dimorphos asteroid system. In order to explore the space rocks and the crater on Dimorphos that DART left behind, that mission, known as Hera, will launch a spacecraft to the asteroid in 2024 and actually orbit the binary asteroid system by 2027.

Hours before the impact, Chabot told reporters, “The technology of hitting the asteroid is definitely a challenge.” However, a lot more occurs after that.