NASA’s spacecraft DART, or the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, has successfully slammed into an asteroid to alter its orbit setting off an era in which humans can potentially protect the planet Earth from hazardous asteroid impacts.
DART impactor hit its target, Dimorphos a space rock orbiting another bigger asteroid, at 4:44 am IST (7:14 pm Eastern Time), 10 months after launching from the Earth.
NASA’s systems guided the 1570-kg box-shaped spacecraft through the final 90,000 km of space into Dimorphos, intentionally crashing into it at roughly 22,530 kmph to slightly slow the asteroid’s orbital speed. The spacecraft’s onboard camera, DRACO captured the final images seconds before the impact. The images revealed the surface of Dimorphos in close-up detail.
The 525-foot (160-meter) asteroid named Dimorphos is a moonlet of Didymos. The pair have been orbiting the sun for ages without threatening Earth, making them ideal test candidates.
The investigation team will now observe Dimorphos using ground-based telescopes to confirm that DART’s impact altered its orbit around Didymos. The impact is expected to shorten Dimorphos’ orbit by about 1 percent or roughly 10 minutes.
DART’s CubeSat companion Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids (LICIACube), provided by the Italian Space Agency, will now fly by the asteroid to provide a view of the collision’s effects to help researchers better characterize the effectiveness of the impact in deflecting an asteroid.
What is planetary defence system and what does it mean for humanity?
As per NASA scientists, a Planetary Defense System is a globally unifying effort to protect everyone living on Earth. The $325 million mission was the first attempt to shift the position of an asteroid or any other natural object in space to test the capability of humans of saving the Earth from potentially hazardous asteroid impacts in future.
"We're embarking on a new era, an era in which we potentially have the capability to protect ourselves from something like a dangerous hazardous asteroid impact," said Lori Glaze, director of NASA's planetary science division, NDTV reported.
The DART mission is a big step forward for humanity as it will help scientists assess one of the most popular ideas for planetary defence and provide a way to raise awareness about the need to plan ahead for such circumstances.
DART’s success is a significant addition to the essential toolbox that humans must have to protect Earth from a devastating impact.
“This demonstrates we are no longer powerless to prevent this type of natural disaster. Coupled with enhanced capabilities to accelerate finding the remaining hazardous asteroid population by our next Planetary Defense mission, the Near-Earth Object (NEO) Surveyor, a DART successor could provide what we need to save the day,” said aid Lindley Johnson, NASA’s Planetary Defense Officer in NASA’s report.
(Edited by : Sangam Singh)
First Published: Sept 27, 2022 9:33 AM IST