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NASA’s DART Mission is a Success, Marking Another Milestone for Planetary Defense

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The success of NASA’s DART mission was announced. The purpose of the space mission was to see if Earth’s technology could divert an asteroid from its trajectory.

If the mission is successful, it will guarantee that our planet can protect itself from external threats like asteroids and other celestial bodies headed straight for our globe.

DART, which stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, employs a controlled spacecraft that would collide with an asteroid to see whether it can divert it from its route. Dimorphos is the name of the asteroid, a sizable piece of space rock that orbits Didymos, a bigger asteroid. About a million miles separate the asteroid from the planet.

In around 11 hours and 55 minutes, the smaller asteroid completes a full rotation around the larger asteroid. The DART Mission seeks to modify the smaller asteroid’s orbit in order to shorten the time it takes for a complete rotation.

“We’re moving an asteroid. We are changing the motion of a natural celestial body in space. Humanity has never done that before. This is stuff of science fiction books and really corny episodes of Star Trek from when I was a kid, and now it’s real. And that’s kind of astonishing that we are actually doing that, and what that bodes for the future of what we can do,” stated Tom Statler, a DART program scientist.

“It’s something that we need to get done so that we know what’s out there and know what’s coming and have adequate time to prepare for it,” added Lindley Johnson, Planetary Defense Officer at NASA.

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It is a success

NASA researchers discovered that the period was decreased to 11 hours and 23 minutes after the DART ship collided with Dimorphos two weeks ago, indicating a 32-minute alteration in orbit.

“This is a watershed moment for defense. This mission shows that NASA is trying to be ready for whatever the universe throws at us,” said NASA Administration Bill Nelson.

NASA emphasized that the asteroid does not represent a threat to the world and that there is no need for people to be concerned that the organization is stepping on a space rock. Instead, only the ability of the Earth to protect itself against actual dangers from celestial entities aiming to damage us directly was the purpose of the mission.

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For planetary defense

“For the first time ever, humanity has changed the orbit of a planetary body,” said the Planetary Science Division director at NASA, Lori Glaze.

The mission was successful, according to NASA, because of the altered amount of time it took Dimorphos to spin in comparison to its larger counterpart. Additionally, it is made feasible by the kinetic energy released upon the spacecraft’s collision with Dimorphos. Scientists continuously monitored and observed the asteroid after the DART mission made contact to ensure that there was a change.

“The bottom line is, it’s a great thing. Someday, we are going to find an asteroid which has a high probability of hitting the Earth, and we are going to want to deflect it. When that happens, we should have, in advance, some experience knowing that this would work,” said Ed Lu, Asteroid Institute executive director.

Photo Credit: NASA

Source: NPR

Brandon Foster is a multimedia reporter. He covers a variety of topics.

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