January 26, 2023

Source: indianexpress.com

NASA DART Mission Success:: The DART spacecraft successfully crashed into the asteroid Dimorphos in what is humanity’s first successful planetary defence test.

NASA’s DART spacecraft, DART Mission Success: The DART spacecraft successfully crashed into the asteroid Dimorphos at 4.44 AM IST on September 27. With the collision, humanity’s first planetary defence test has been completed successfully in a mission that went exactly as planned without any hitches.

“We already knew the images would be spectacular but I think they still exceeded expectations. This was a really hard technology demonstration. To hit an asteroid we have never seen before and to do it so spectacularly is quite the achievement,” said Nancy Chabot, DART coordination lead, after the collision in NASA’s livestream.

The impact should have nudged the asteroid slightly and subtly changed its orbit around Didymos, the larger asteroid. Telescopes on Earth and in space are going to take measurements of this change to see how the change measures up to computer-generated simulations.

“It has been a successful completion of the first part of the world’s first planetary defence test. I believe it is going to teach us how to protect our planet from an incoming asteroid. I really look forward to learning all about what is happening from the observatory so they can tell us from the changes in this asteroid’s orbit. With this mission, we are showing that planetary defence is a global endeavour and that it s very possible to save our planet,” said NASA administrator Bill Nelson in the NASA livestream.

“I have been working in the lab for many years and I have been involved in a lot of missions. But never before have I been so excited to see a signal go off,” said Ralph Semmel, director of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, referring to how the signal from the DART spacecraft’s DRACO imager went off after the crash.

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In a way, the impact is just the beginning of the mission as science and images from the mission are yet to come in. In the coming days and weeks, scientists will be studying the Didymos system from all angles. This includes observing changes in Dimorphos’ orbit with ground-based observatories and studying the impact crater with space telescopes. Scientists may even get images of the collision from the LICIACube, Hubble and Webb.

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