NASA's Dart Makes Impact!
All around our solar system, millions of asteroids orbit the sun along with the planets. Most are nothing more than the size of a boulder, but some are big enough to pose a real danger to Earth if an impact were to ever happen. Scientists at NASA are preparing a contingency plan for such a scenario and have just completed an important test in a potential planetary defense system.
On September 26, scientists at NASA working on the DART mission (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) crashed an unnamed craft into a small asteroid named Dimorphous, redirecting its path alongside Didymos, another asteroid that it orbits. Dimorphous poses no threat to Earth, but the mission’s intent was to prepare for redirecting such an asteroid if one were ever to menace our planet.
What's awesome, is that NASA also strapped a camera to the probe, so all of us earthlings got front row seats to the first outer space demolition derby! We had a great time watching along here at Mini Museum HQ!
Planetary defense from rogue asteroids has long been a concern of NASA’s and other space agencies, but efforts to prepare such a program have lacked proper funding. The DART’s program suggests that the threat of an impact, however remote, is being taken seriously. The data from the DART impact still has to be analyzed to understand just how much Dimorphous’ trajectory was affected, but it’s an important first step in preventing an apocalyptic hypothetical.
Want to read more? Our pal, the Bad Astronomer, has a fantastic write up of the event here.