NASA’s DART project

Are we able to protect Earth in case of a celestial threat? This question was often discussed and represented in pop culture. In movies like Armageddon (1998), Deep Impact (1998) or more recently Don’t Look Up! (2021), the most common tactic used to counter asteroids (or comets) is trying to divert it by sending either nuclear missiles or making the asteroid blow up from the inside. Everything was fiction until NASA decided to take it to another level with the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) project.

On Sept. 26, 2022, at 7:14 pm EDT, DART’s satellite intentionally crashed into Dimorphos, an asteroid in the double-asteroid system of Didymos. It was the world’s first test of the kinetic impact mitigation technique: using a spacecraft to deflect an asteroid that poses no threat to Earth, and modifying the object’s orbit. DART is a test for defending Earth against potential asteroid or comet hazards.

Celestial dust from the impact of NASA's DART mission at several time.

As we can see, the impact made a lot of dust and NASA is still collecting data to see if the asteroid trajectory changed or not. But the first results are promising and in a couple of months, we will be able to know if Humanity can defend itself from a celestial threat.

Hugo Lhomedet

Sources: https://dart.jhuapl.edu/Mission/index.php
https://www.nasa.gov/planetarydefense/dart/dart-news
Credits: Science: NASA, ESA, CSA, Cristina Thomas (Northern Arizona University), Ian Wong (NASA-GSFC); Joseph DePasquale (STScI)

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