NASA’s Dart mission successfully shifts asteroid’s orbit after intentional crash | US News
NASA has said a spacecraft that intentionally crashed into an asteroid last month has successfully shifted its orbit.
Results from telescopic observations showed that the suicide test flight of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft reached its primary target, the trajectory of the asteroid, on September 26.
NASA attempted the first test of its kind to see if a celestial object could be knocked out of Earth’s path in the future.
Its success marks the first time humans have altered the movement of such an object.
“This is a tipping point for the defense of the planet and a tipping point for humanity,” said NASA chief Bill Nelson.
“This mission shows that NASA is trying to be prepared for whatever the universe throws at us,” he added.
The Dart probe crashed into the egg-shaped asteroid Dimorphos in the first-ever test of a “planetary defense system.”
The spacecraft carved a crater in the asteroid, hurling debris into space and leaving a comet-like trail of dust and debris stretching for thousands of miles.
Images released by NASA show the asteroid Dimorphos after it was struck by the Dart spacecraft.
The space agency says as new data comes in, astronomers can better assess if and how a mission like Dart could be used in the future if we ever spot an asteroid heading our way.
It took days of telescopic observations to determine just how much the impact altered the 160 m (525 ft) asteroid’s orbit around its companion, a much larger space rock.
Moment as NASA spacecraft crashes into an asteroid
The automaton-sized dart, launched last year, was destroyed when it hit the asteroid at 14,000 mph (22,500 km/h) 7 million miles (11 million kilometers) away.
The $330 million (£300 million) mission, which was seven years in development, targeted the asteroid, which is about the size of a football stadium and orbits a parent asteroid, Didymos, about five times larger, once every 11 hours and 55 minutes.
US Vice President Kamala Harris congratulated the team on Twitter after the space agency announced the news.