It is done! NASA just hit the asteroid Dimorphos with a spacecraft
The mission DART or Double Asteroid Redirection Test has as objective to alter the orbit of the asteroid Dimorphos which revolves around a larger asteroid called Didymos. On Monday, September 26 at 23:14 GMT, the NASA managed to ram Dimorphos with a spacecraft which was obviously destroyed in the process. This is the first attempt by humans to change the trajectory of an asteroid.
The DART mission probe was launched last November. It took him 10 months to reach the Didymos – Dimorphos pair, which is currently 11 million km from Earth. The target asteroid poses no danger to Earthbut he was the ideal candidate to carry out the experiment.
According to the scientists, this stage of the mission was a success. The mission itself is considered an important exercise to prepare for the approach of a possible dangerous asteroid in the future.
The course of events
The DART mission could be followed live thanks to a NASA broadcast. The spacecraft crashed into the asteroid with a speed exceeding 22,500 km/h. About 20 minutes before impact, the control team celebrated a mission milestone which was the confirmation that the craft was “precisely locked” on Dimorphos.
Five minutes before impact, another milestone was reached. The spacecraft had passed a threshold beyond which the team could no longer send it commands. The aircraft then used its navigation systems to capture images of the asteroid during the approach. These images served as a guide for him to be able to hit the target.
At the moment of impact, images that showed the surface of the asteroid growing larger were cut off. The NASA team did not fail to celebrate this loss of signal which meant that the craft crashed well on the surface of Dimorphos.
In the coming days, the last images transmitted by the spacecraft of the DART mission will be studied to better understand the composition of the asteroid. But, in the long term, researchers will focus on studying the orbit of Dimorphos to know if the impact really had an effect on its trajectory.
This study of the asteroid’s orbit will be facilitated by the presence of a CubeSat which was deployed in the surrounding area two weeks ago, as well as through the use of ground-based telescopes. These observatories will monitor the system formed by the two asteroids to precisely measure the new orbit of Dimorphos. Scientists expect this orbit to be shortened by several minutes.
In addition to these observation posts set up, theESA also goes launch another probe in 2024 to study the effects of the impact on the asteroid system.