Nasa's planetary defense test conducted successfully
Nasa's Dart (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission successfully collides with asteroid Dimorphos, but it will take two weeks to see if that heads-on crash will change the trajectory of the 5 billion kilogram asteroid.
In an unprecedented test of NASA's ability to protect Earth from a doomsday scenario, a multimillion-dollar spacecraft crashed head-on with an asteroid the size of a football stadium on Monday.
The asteroid Dimorphos, located 6.8 million miles (10.9 million kilometers) from Earth, was successfully impacted by NASA's spacecraft. The Dart (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission was humanity's first attempt to propel another celestial body. Its objective was to determine if it was possible to effectively divert a sizable asteroid that was heading toward Earth.
At 7.14 pm EDT, the spacecraft struck the asteroid at 15,000 mph (24,136 kph). Cheers broke out in the mission control room as the live-streamed video showed the asteroid's debris-strewn surface coming into focus prior to the spacecraft's impact.
Nasa’s planetary science division director, Lori Glaze, declared, shortly after impact, that it is a “new era of humankind,” adding that “[It’s] an era in which we potentially have the capability to protect ourselves from something like a dangerous hazardous asteroid impact,” said Glaze. “What an amazing thing. We’ve never had that capability before.”
The test tries to establish if colliding a spacecraft into an asteroid on purpose may successfully alter its course.
Dart scientists declared the mission a success during a post-mission news briefing, but they expressed caution, saying it will be around two months before they can determine whether the spacecraft was successful in changing Dimorphos's trajectory.
Deputy program manager Elena Adams hailed Monday’s test as the “ideal outcome.” In the press briefing, she said that “We knew we were going to hit. All of us were holding our breath. I’m kind of surprised none of us passed out.”
Adams explained that the craft had landed 17 meters from its target which is sufficient to represent a complete success. “It was basically a bullseye. I think, as far as we can tell, the first planetary defense test was a success, and we can clap to that,” said the deputy.
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Scientists will spend the coming weeks tracking the asteroid's speed and movements as well as conducting calculations to determine whether the hit was powerful enough to move the asteroid. Adams nevertheless stated, “Earthlings should sleep better, and I definitely will.”
Scientists claimed that Dimorphos would not be shattered by Dart. The asteroid weighed 5 billion kilograms, whereas the spaceship only packed a meager 570 kilograms. According to NASA spokesperson Glen Nagle, Dart's intended self-destruction presented no hazards to people.
Monday’s test was the first of a series of “planetary protection missions,” said Nagel stressing that “We want to have a better chance than the dinosaurs had 65 million years ago.”
Even though no known asteroid greater than 140 meters (459 feet) in size has a considerable likelihood of colliding with Earth in the foreseeable future, barely 40% of such asteroids are thought to have been discovered thus far.
The $325 million planetary defense test marked the pinnacle of a journey that started with Dart's launch in the fall of last year. The LiciaCube (Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging Asteroids), the mission's "mini-photographer," gave online Earthlings the chance to view the collision with Dimorphos live, or at least with a few minutes delay.
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