NASA's DART spacecraft, launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, has revolutionized our knowledge of asteroid impact prevention. (ESA/D.Ducros/EPA)


DART spacecraft hits the bullseye 7 million miles from home

<a href="" target="_self">Brandon Chang</a>

Brandon Chang

January 27, 2023
NASA’s $324.5 million DART spacecraft flew into an asteroid about half a mile in diameter, and was smashed into thousands of bits and pieces on Sept. 26, 2022. But instead of sighs, the impact was met with cheers and celebration. That’s because the contact that Double Asteroid Redirection Test made on the asteroid was intentional. In fact, the objective of the mission was to change the asteroid’s motion in space through a method known as kinetic impact.

Launched in November 2021 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, DART flew around in space for a total of 10 months before its contact. Its target was Dimorphos, a small asteroid just 530 feet in diameter that did not pose any threat to Earth. As NASA’s first attempt to significantly change the orbital motion of a NEO (Near-Earth Object), DART proved that we now have the capability to mitigate, if not completely deter, the path of asteroids that are headed towards Earth.

Although deemed by the scientific community to be highly unlikely (once every 500,000 years), defense against a NEO (near-Earth object) impact on Earth is crucial to the safety and security of global citizens. DART’s significant alteration of Dimorphos is a crucial development to this endeavor.

DART, although now reduced to thousands of space junk bits trailing Dimorphos in a bright debris tail, leaves a legacy of demonstration — it has confirmed that the collision of an extremely fast spacecraft has the potential to alter the orbit of sizable bodies in space simply through brute force, according to the New York Times.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson explains exactly how important the collision was. “At its core, DART represents an unprecedented success for planetary defense, but it is also a mission of unity with a real benefit for all humanity,” Nelson said in a NASA press release. “As NASA studies the cosmos and our home planet, we’re also working to protect that home.”

Watch footage of DART’s last moments here.

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