Building the World

SPACE: Hit and a Miss


“DART’s Trajectory” animation based on NASA’s HORIZONS System by Phoenix7777. CC4.0. Included with appreciation.

Because there was a hit, there will be a miss, In baseball, that’s bad: in asteroid defense, that’s good. In a historic success, NASA, sent the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) to asteroid Dimorphos. It’s a small target: the relatively tiny asteroid is just 530 feet (180 meters) in diameter. And it’s a distance achievement: Dimorphos is 7 million miles (11 million kilometers) away. And it’s a fast shot: DART crashed into the asteroid at 14,000 miles (22,530 kilometers) per hour.

“Asteroid Dimorphos seconds before DART impact.” by Doug Ellison and NASA, 26 September 2022. Public Domain. Included with appreciation to Doug Ellison and NASA.

An asteroid that might someday impact the Earth could destroy life on our shared planet, as it did with dinosaurs 66 million years ago. The impact of a six-mile-wide asteroid, called Chicxulub by today’s scientists, hit just off Mexico and killed 75% of Earth’s species.

“Depiction of Spinosaurus” from exhibit at Visvesvaraya Industrial & Technological Museum, Bangalore, India, by VITM 2018. CC 4.0. Included with appreciation.

While a similar disaster is not imminent, preparation is. In an illustration of cooperation in our orbital commons, NASA worked in partnership with Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) and Italian Space Agency’s LICIACube. In four years, the European Space Agency (ESA) Hera mission will conduct surveys of Dimorphos to examine the crater left by DART’s direct hit. Both are part of the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA) collaboration.

There are between 1.1 to 1.9 million asteroids within the asteroid belt, pictured here as the white “donut” ring. Illustration by Mdf, Wikimedia/creative commons, public domain donation. Included with appreciation.

Meanwhile, the hit was deemed a success, knocking Dimorphos into a different orbit. The test proves we have capability to deflect an oncoming asteroid or comet, such as that depicted in the recent film “Don’t Look Up.” Want to see a video of the final moments before DART crashed into Dimorphos? Click here.

If our civilization is able to cooperate, and succeed, in something so distant, is there hope for similar cooperation and success a bit closer to home?

Can space cooperation bring the dawn of peace? “Pink Sky Peace,” by Pink Sherbet Photography, Creative Commons 2.0. Included with appreciation, and hope.

Greshko, Michael. “Dinosaur-killing asteroid most likely struck in spring.” 22 February 2022. National Geographic.

McKay, Adam, director, producer, writer. With Leonardo DeCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan, and Meryl Streep. “Don’t Look Up.” 2021. Hyperobject Industries. Trailer video:

NASA. “NASA’S DART Mission Hits Asteroid in First-Ever Planetary Defense Test.” 26 September 2022.

Strickland, Ashley. “The DART mission successfully changed the motion of an asteroid.” 11 October 2022. CNN. with Video.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

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