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NASA's DART asteroid mission: Top facts about the historic planetary defence test

After 10 months flying in space, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) – the world’s first planetary defense technology demonstration – successfully hit its asteroid target on Monday.

Suryakant Jena
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NASA's DART missionPhotoPhoto: NASA

DART spacecraft's moments before collision with asteroid Dimorphos

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Monday made history in successfully completing world's first planetary defense exercise, in a test attempt to prevent any potential doomsday collision of a meteorite with earth.

This was humanity's first effort in altering the motion of any celestial body in space played out by scientists at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, US.

Here are some of the facts about the mission you must know:

  • The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission successfully targeted the moonlet asteroid Dimorphos at around 4.40 am Indian standard time.
  • It took nearly 10 months of intense effort from the NASA to complete the mission.
  • Dimorphos is a small celestial body just 530 feet (160 meters) in diameter. It orbits a larger, 2,560-foot (780-meter) asteroid called Didymos. Neither asteroid poses a threat to Earth.
  • DART spacecraft was a 1,260-pound (570-kilogram) box-shaped machine
  • It crashed into Dimorphos at roughly 14,000 miles (22,530 kilometers) per hour
  • The spacecraft’s only instrument, the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical navigation (DRACO), along with sophisticated guidance, navigation, and control system that works in tandem with Small-body Maneuvering Autonomous Real Time Navigation (SMART Nav) algorithms, enabled DART to identify and hit the smaller asteroid between the two
  • The asteroid pair is flying within 7 million miles (11 million kilometers) of Earth.
  • A global team will characterize the ejecta produced and precisely measure Dimorphos’ orbital change to determine how effectively DART deflected the asteroid. The results will help validate and improve scientific computer models critical to predicting the effectiveness of this technique as a reliable method for asteroid deflection.
  • In the next four years from now, European Space Agency’s Hera project will conduct detailed surveys of both Dimorphos and Didymos, with a particular focus on the crater left by DART’s collision and precise measurement of Dimorphos’ mass.