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.
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.
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.
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?
Greshko, Michael. “Dinosaur-killing asteroid most likely struck in spring.” 22 February 2022. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/dinosaur-killing-asteroid-most-likely-struck-in-spring
McKay, Adam, director, producer, writer. With Leonardo DeCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan, and Meryl Streep. “Don’t Look Up.” 2021. Hyperobject Industries. Trailer video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SL9aJcqrtnw
NASA. “NASA’S DART Mission Hits Asteroid in First-Ever Planetary Defense Test.” 26 September 2022. https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-s-dart-mission-hits-asteroid-in-first-ever-planetary-defense-test
Strickland, Ashley. “The DART mission successfully changed the motion of an asteroid.” 11 October 2022. CNN. with Video. https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/11/world/nasa-dart-success-update-scn/index.html
Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un