NASA Beats Russia, China In Hitting Asteroid, Changing Its Trajectory
A NASA spacecraft rammed an asteroid at blistering speed in an unprecedented dress rehearsal for the day a killer rock menaces Earth, Marcia Dunn reported for the Associated Press (AP).
Photo Insert: The probe's goal was to slow the orbit of Dimorphos around its larger partner — the 1,280-feet-wide (390 m) asteroid Didymos.
The galactic slam occurred at the harmless asteroid Dimorphos 7 million miles (11.3 million kilometers) away, with the spacecraft named Dart plowing into the space rock at 14,000 mph (22,500 kph).
Scientists expected the impact to carve out a crater, hurl streams of rocks and dirt into space and, most importantly, alter the asteroid’s orbit. “We have impact!” Mission Control’s Elena Adams announced, jumping up and down and thrusting her arms skyward.
The 1,210-pound (550 kilograms) DART craft — a squat, cube-shaped probe consisting of sensors, an antenna, an ion thruster, and two 28-foot-long (8.5 meters) solar arrays — made a direct hit with the 525-feet-wide (160 m) asteroid Dimorphos and dramatically disintegrated upon impact, Ben Turner reported for Space.Com.
"Now is when the science starts, now that we've impacted. Now we're going to see how effective we were," Lori Glaze, Planetary Science Division Director at NASA, said in a live webcast of the event.
The probe's goal was to slow the orbit of Dimorphos around its larger partner — the 1,280-feet-wide (390 m) asteroid Didymos. NASA will deem the mission a success if Dimorphos’s 12-hour orbit slows by 73 seconds, but the real change could be by as much as 10 minutes.
Neither asteroid poses a threat to Earth. Data that will pour in for weeks to come will tell us how successful that mission was, said Nancy Chabot, Coordination Lead for the DART mission, in a live webcast of the event, Live Science also reported.