When we last checked in on the NASA Double Asteroid Rendezvous Test (“DART”) probe, the golf cart-sized spacecraft had successfully smashed into Dimorphos, the asteroid circling its big brother Didymos, What wasn’t clear at that point was whether the successful navigation of the DART into Dimorphos had changed the trajectory of the asteroid.
Now we know: the DART not only hit the bullseye, it successfully changed the trajectory of the asteroid and exceeded expectations in doing so. Mission planners hoped that the DART would be able to change the length of time it takes Dimorphos to circle Didymos by 10 minutes, and tests reveal that the collision with the DART changed the orbit by 32 minutes.
The success of the DART is a big moment in developing a planetary defense to a potentially catastrophic asteroid strike. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson observed: “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.”
Thanks to the DART, we are no longer at the mercy of the asteroids and meteors hurtling around our solar system. It’s not only cool, it’s great news for the future of homo sapiens and the other species that share planet Earth with us.