Oct 11, 2022 - Science

NASA's DART mission successfully deflected an asteroid

A blue streak that shows debris blasted off of an asteroid

Debris blasted off of the asteroid Dimorphos as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Photo: NASA/ESA/STScI/Hubble

A NASA mission to change the orbit of an asteroid in deep space successfully deflected its asteroid target, the space agency confirmed today.

Why it matters: The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) was designed to test the technology needed to throw a dangerous asteroid off-course with Earth if one is ever found.

Catch up quick: DART slammed into the small asteroid moonlet Dimorphos on Sept. 26 in a bid to change its path around the larger asteroid Didymos.

  • NASA announced Tuesday that observations from ground and space-based telescopes found DART's impact changed the orbit of Dimorphos around Didymos, shortening it by about 32 minutes and effectively taking it off its normal course.
  • The test would have been considered a success if it had just changed the orbit of Dimorphos by 73 seconds.
  • It took a couple weeks for scientists to gather enough data to figure out just how much the moonlet's orbit had changed.

The big picture: NASA and other space agencies around the world are focused on finding and tracking potentially dangerous asteroids that could impact Earth sometime in the future.

  • "This is a planet wide issue," Lori Glaze, the director of planetary science at NASA, said during a press conference today. "If there were an asteroid that were a threat to Earth, we should all be concerned and we all need to be working together."
  • Scientists are now working to develop the Near Earth Object Surveyor telescope, a space-based observatory that will be able to detect difficult-to-find, possibly dangerous space rocks.
  • That mission, however, has been delayed until 2028 due to a major budget cut to the NASA mission.

Go deeper: The asteroid threat gets real

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