September 27, 2022 07:33
NASA’s Dart spacecraft successfully collided with a distant asteroid at supersonic speed on Monday in a test of the world’s first planetary defense system, designed to prevent a catastrophic meteor collision with Earth.
Humans’ first attempt to alter the course of an asteroid or celestial body appeared in a NASA webcast from the Mission Operations Center at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. It came ten months after the launch of the Dart.
The live broadcast showed images taken by a camera on board Dart as the cube-shaped vehicle, no larger than the size of a vending machine, and equipped with two rectangular arrays of solar panels, hit the asteroid Dimorphos, which is approximately the size of a football field, at 7:14 pm local time. The eastern United States (2314 GMT) is 11 million km from Earth.
The goal of the mission is to determine if the spacecraft is able to alter the course of an asteroid through kinetic force, pushing it off course enough to keep our planet safe.
It will not be known whether the experiment was successful or not until further observations of the asteroid by a ground-based telescope next month. But NASA officials praised the immediate result of the test conducted on Monday evening, saying the spacecraft had achieved its goal.
“NASA works for the good of humanity, so for us doing something like this is the ultimate accomplishment of our mission. A tech show… that could save our home one day,” NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Milroy, a retired astronaut, said minutes after the collision.
It was launched by a SpaceX rocket in November, 2021, and most of the mission was carried out under the supervision of NASA flight managers, before handing control of the vehicle to an independent onboard navigation system in the final hours of flight.
NASA scientists stressed that the test could not result in a threat to Earth by mistake.