In late September, NASA carried out the first planetary defense technology demonstration the world has seen with its DART mission the Double Asteroid Redirection Test. With this mission, NASA was aiming to demonstrate that it is possible to redirect an asteroid from its trajectory in the event it is expected to impact Earth. On September 26, NASA successfully moved the Dimorphos asteroid in space, thereby demonstrating a viable mitigation technique, known as kinetic impact, to protect the planet from an asteroid or comet that approaches Earth, in the event one is discovered.
DART was focused on the Dimorphos asteroid, a small body of just 160 meters in diameter that orbits a larger asteroid of 780 meters, called Didymos. Neither of the two asteroids is a threat to Earth.
These past weeks, the research team at NASA has observed the Dimorphos asteroid with Earth-based telescopes, confirming that DART’s impact has effectively altered the orbit around Didymos by 32 minutes, shortening it from 11 hours and 55 minutes to 11 hours and 23 minutes.
In the words of Bill Nelson, NASA administrator, “All of us have a responsibility to protect our home planet. After all, it’s the only one we have.” “This mission shows that NASA is trying to be ready for whatever the universe throws at us. NASA has proven we are serious as a defender of the planet. This is a watershed moment for planetary defense and all of humanity, demonstrating commitment from NASA’s exceptional team and partners from around the world.”