NASA’s DART spacecraft successfully collides with the Demorphos asteroid

Operation completed.

NASA successfully slammed a rover into an asteroid on Monday, a win for NASA’s plan to prepare for a devastating asteroid that threatens humanity.

The 1,260-pound Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft (DART) collided with the estimated 11 billion-pound, 520-foot-long asteroid Demorphos at 14,000 miles per hour, nearly 7 million miles from Earth.

The spacecraft launched its camera and shoebox-sized companion, LICIACube, more than a week ago to film the mission and confirm the impact.

“It’s really hard to hit a small asteroid that we’ve never seen before and hit it in such a spectacular way,” said Nancy Chabot, planetary scientist and mission team leader at Johns Hopkins University. It was a technical demonstration.

The completed mission is the culmination of DART’s 10-month journey at a cost of $325 million. Two were chosen because the asteroid orbits a larger one named Didymos and poses no threat to Earth.

Visual explanation: Get inside NASA’s plan to crash the Dart spacecraft into an asteroid

DART successfully hit Dimorphos, but NASA won’t know for weeks or months if the entire mission was a complete success. The agency’s goal was not to destroy the asteroid, but to alter its orbit around Didymos enough to alter both orbits. Dimorphus circumnavigates Didymus in 11 hours and 55 minutes. NASA hopes the collision will shorten the orbit by 10 minutes.

But if a destructive asteroid is heading toward Earth, changing the asteroid’s orbit by as little as 1% could be enough, NASA says. There are currently about 30,000 near-Earth objects in our solar system. According to NASA, which means reaching within 120.8 million miles of Earth. Over 10,000 near-Earth objects are about the same size as Demorphus.

Planetary defense experts prefer to give enough lead time to push an asteroid or comet out of the way rather than blowing it up and creating multiple pieces that can rain down on Earth. I like Large space rocks may require multiple impactors, or even a combination of impactors and so-called gravity tractors. This is a yet-to-be-invented device that uses its own gravity to pull asteroids into safer orbits.

No asteroids of that size are expected to hit Earth within the next 100 years, but as of October 2021, only 40% of those asteroids have been discovered. NASA saysOf the millions of small asteroids, less than 1% are known to have the potential to cause widespread damage.

Contribution: Associated Press

Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter. @jordan_mendoza5. NASA’s DART spacecraft successfully collides with the Demorphos asteroid

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