See NASA Crash A Satellite Into An Asteroid To Protect Earth

NASA launched a rocket known as DART into an asteroid called Dimorphos.

By Charlene Badasie | Published

A NASA spacecraft struck an asteroid almost seven million miles away in a test designed to prevent potentially devastating collisions with Earth. Known as DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test), the vessel crashed into the Dimorphos asteroid at about 23:00 GMT on September 26th. The United States space agency live streamed the test from its mission operations center outside Washington, DC.

Cheers could be heard from engineers in the NASA control room as second-by-second images of the football stadium-sized asteroid grew larger and ultimately filled the screens of the webcast. DART eventually lost its signal, confirming it had crashed into Dimorphos. “Impact confirmed for the world’s first planetary defense test mission,” said a graphic that appeared on the live stream via CNN.

asteroid mass extinction

The event was NASA’s first full-scale demonstration of deflection technology that can protect the planet. “For the first time ever, we will measurably change the orbit of a celestial body in the universe,” Head of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory’s Space Exploration Sector, Robert Braun told the publication. However, its success will not be known until further ground-based telescope observations are completed in October.

Launched by a SpaceX rocket in November 2021, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test made most of its voyage under the guidance of NASA’s flight directors. Control was handed over to an autonomous onboard navigation system in the final hours of its journey. Its s celestial target orbited a parent asteroid five times larger called Didymos as part of a binary pair with the same name – the Greek word for twin.

Before the test, NASA scientists assured the public that neither object presented any actual threat to Earth. They also added that due to the distance, DART would create a new existential hazard by mistake. Dimorphos and Didymos are tiny compared with the cataclysmic Chicxulub asteroid that struck Earth around 66 million years ago. The impact wiped out three-quarters of the world’s plant and animal species, including dinosaurs.

Interestingly, smaller asteroids are far more common and pose a greater theoretical concern. This made the Didymos pair suitable test subjects for their size, according to NASA scientists and planetary defense experts. Calculations of the starting location and orbital period of Dimorphos were confirmed during a six-day observation period in July, News24 reports. The moonlet is one of the smallest astronomical objects to receive a permanent name and one of 27,500 known near-Earth asteroids tracked by NASA.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test is just the latest of several NASA missions to explore and interact with asteroids in recent years. The exploration includes primordial rocky remnants from the solar system’s formation more than 4.5 billion years ago. The space agency also launched a probe on a voyage to the Trojan asteroid clusters orbiting near Jupiter last year.

Meanwhile, the grab-and-go spacecraft OSIRIS-REx is on its way back to Earth with a sample it collected in 2020 from the asteroid Bennu. The cost of the DART project is estimated to be about $330m, far below some of NASA’s more ambitious space missions.