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NASA DART craft successfully hits asteroid, could help defend Earth against future impact

Asteroid Strike-Explainer
Posted at 10:34 AM, Sep 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-27 14:41:14-04

NASA has successfully and intentionally crashed its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft into an asteroid.

It is part of a test to see if scientists can alter the path of the Dimorphos asteroid. The small asteroid is 525 feet wide and has an elliptical orbit around the solar system.

NASA says Dimorphos is part of the binary asteroid system called Didymos. The larger Didymos asteroid is nearly a half-mile wide.

NASA says it poses no threat to Earth as it is used as part of the historic test.

WATCH EARLIER BROADCAST:

Scientists want to know if a spacecraft can deflect an asteroid for planetary defense.

NASA said that the spacecraft’s camera will return one image per second back to Earth.

As the spacecraft approached the asteroid, NASA engineers said we would know the impact was successful, as the transmission of images stopped suddenly.

Just as engineers expected, as the craft approached the space object the asteroid appeared larger and larger in a rough grey transmitted image. Amazing detail could be seen, of a rocky surface.

At around 7:15 p.m. ET on Monday NASA's broadcast showed the moment of impact, as the transmission was knocked out, indicating that the craft has made impact with the asteroid.

The DART craft made a 6.8 million-mile journey to the space object.

WATCH EARLIER ALTERNATE BROADCAST:

The LICIACube (short for Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging Asteroids) also returned images from above the impact, which show the impact crater left by DART. LICIACube is the companion satellite for DART.

On Saturday, NASA said LICIACube tested its cameras, returning images of a crescent Earth and the Pleiades star cluster.

EARTH.jpeg
Crescent Earth as seen by DART's companion satellite.

The asteroid’s surface is extremely rough and full of boulders. It does not have a known atmosphere.

In 2003, the asteroid came within about 5 million miles of Earth. By comparison, the moon is nearly 250,000 miles from our planet.