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NASA’s DART Spacecraft Successfully Alters Asteroid’s Course

NASA’s DART Spacecraft Successfully Alters Asteroid’s Course

Prior to impact, it took Dimorphos 11 hours and 55 minutes to orbit asteroid Didymos. Now, it takes Dimorphos 11 hours and 23 minutes to circle.

At the end of September, I reported that NASA tested the “Double Asteroid Redirection Test” (DART) spacecraft successfully, as it intentionally slammed into an asteroid in a historic test of humanity’s ability to protect Earth from an impact event.

The data has been streaming in since the impact, and it now appears that the asteroid’s course has been altered.

The spacecraft NASA deliberately crashed into an asteroid last month succeeded in nudging the rocky moonlet from its natural path into a faster orbit, marking the first time humanity has altered the motion of a celestial body, the U.S. space agency announced on Tuesday.

The $330 million proof-of-concept mission, which was seven years in development, also represented the world’s first test of a planetary defense system designed to prevent a potential doomsday meteorite collision with Earth.

Findings of telescope observations unveiled at a NASA news briefing in Washington confirmed the suicide test flight of the DART spacecraft on Sept. 26 achieved its primary objective: changing the direction of an asteroid through sheer kinetic force.

The numbers are encouraging.

Prior to impact, it took Dimorphos 11 hours and 55 minutes to orbit its larger parent asteroid Didymos. Astronomers used ground-based telescopes to measure how Dimorphos’ orbit changed after impact.

Now, it takes Dimorphos 11 hours and 23 minutes to circle Didymos. The DART spacecraft changed the moonlet asteroid’s orbit by 32 minutes.

Initially, astronomers expected DART to be a success if it shortened the trajectory by 10 minutes.

“All of us have a responsibility to protect our home planet. After all, it’s the only one we have,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

“This mission shows that NASA is trying to be ready for whatever the universe throws at us. NASA has proven we are serious as a defender of the planet. This is a watershed moment for planetary defense and all of humanity, demonstrating commitment from NASA’s exceptional team and partners from around the world.”

Now, if we can only nudge world leaders to get off the trajectory of nuclear Armageddon. Biden made some remarks direct to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the disastrous consequences of using nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine.

[Biden], who first touched on this subject at an off-camera fundraiser in New York last week, made crystal clear he was sending a public message to Putin about the dangers of thinking that using a lower yield, tactical nuclear bomb would be an isolated event.

“What I am talking about, I am talking to Putin. He, in fact, cannot continue with impunity to talk about the use of a tactical nuclear weapon as if that’s a rational thing to do,” Biden said, before warning of dangerous consequences of such a move.

“The mistakes get made, the miscalculation could occur, no one could be sure what would happen and it could end in Armageddon,” he said, again stressing that a nuclear blast that kills thousands of people could lead to events barreling way out of control.

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Comments

We spent $330 million on this? I hardly think altering a trajectory by 32 minutes will do anything to change the course of an asteroid about to hit Earth.

    You may want to study up a bit on astronomy and basic orbital mechanics. They can predict an asteroid hitting the earth long before (years) it does. Plenty of time to make tiny course correction that will move it very far from earth by the time it gets here.

      chrisboltssr in reply to parthos. | October 14, 2022 at 11:07 am

      I don’t need to read up on anything. Calculations and predictions aren’t the same as actuality and reality. There is always something about the human spirit where they never recognize their limitations and are always filled with hubris because they’re so educated and smart.

      If something is so small we can’t see it or so large we can barely comprehend it how it got so big we can’t fight it. We can try to do things to delay the inevitable, but that’s all we can do. Spending $330 million to attempt to alter the trajectory of an asteroid (and it’s altering the trajectory, not making it miss the Earth entirely) seems like a waste of money.

        Close The Fed in reply to chrisboltssr. | October 14, 2022 at 5:29 pm

        Gee, you must be fun at parties.

        Variant in reply to chrisboltssr. | October 15, 2022 at 9:33 am

        Both things can be true, I suppose.

        This test shows we can alter the course of a NEO. As the commenter who replied to you stated, a tiny adjustment in orbit of an object far from earth would be more than sufficient to push it off an earth-intercepting course.

        You can, of course, argue that (a) you don’t believe they’re telling the truth or (b) the risks aren’t great enough to justify the expense.

        I’d disagree with both (a) and (b), but you do you!

      Ironclaw in reply to parthos. | October 15, 2022 at 2:17 am

      We’ve seen how well predictions work with the climate change crowd whose predictions never happen.

    MattMusson in reply to chrisboltssr. | October 14, 2022 at 10:52 am

    I will be happy if they don’t accidentally change the asteroid’s course so it hits us.

      My thoughts exactly… in about 15 years when this technology is mature, we’ll have a generation of woke-math and equity babies running the calculations to steer these things.

      Antifundamentalist in reply to MattMusson. | October 14, 2022 at 3:48 pm

      It would end up more complex: we alter the course of an object in space that sets off a chain reaction that results in the destruction of planet Earth – all because some mathematician forgot to include an apparently insignifcant space object into his calculations.

Oh, but once we finish politicizing the science we won’t actually be able to use it successfully.

Probably will end up knocking an asteroid that wasn’t going to hit the Earth … into our orbit.

Because our federal government specializes in making a crisis worse and hiring the worst people to deal with it.

The corruption potential on the post-asteroid-impact aid will be ginormous though !!

    No doubt the Clintoon Foundation will be in on that grift. They’ve nearly spent all that Haiti Earthquake money on food, booze and travel.

Good news. The farther away from Earth we can do something like this, the more an object’s trajectory will be altered. Remember your junior high school physics, people. It’s not hard to understand.
.

    chrisboltssr in reply to DSHornet. | October 14, 2022 at 11:08 am

    Altering trajectory does not equal missing the Earth entirely.

      That depends on how far away the object is when it’s trajectory is altered, and it’s speed.

      If you’re a marksman, you can think of it like Minutes of Angle (MOA). 1 MOA equates to (roughly) 1 inch at 100 yards. But only one half inch at 50 yards, and 2 inches at 200 yards, etc. Small mistakes in your aim result in a bigger ‘miss’ over longer ranges.

      Or if you’re familiar with navigation the same principle applies… if you steer your boat to the wrong heading (off by a degree or two) but your trip is relatively short, you’ll still likely see your destination when you approach it. But if your heading is off over a very long distance, you’ll miss your target destination entirely.

      The same concept applies here, except in three dimensions instead of a 2D plane. If they nudge the asteroid even a very small amount, but do so at sufficient distance from the earth, then yes they could cause it to miss the earth entirely.

        chrisboltssr in reply to Paul. | October 14, 2022 at 5:40 pm

        Or, what we do as humans won’t have much of an impact on the trajectory of an asteroid.

        This was a waste of $330 million.

        DSHornet in reply to Paul. | October 14, 2022 at 10:55 pm

        Wow, Chris seems to have forgotten Newton’s Second Law. He must have been one of those “studies” majors.
        .

          chrisboltssr in reply to DSHornet. | October 14, 2022 at 11:34 pm

          No, I haven’t forgotten anything. I just don’t accept the nonsense that a little satellite is going to alter the trajectory of an asteroid such that it won’t crash into the Earth and, frankly, I think it’s a waste of money to do it.

          Variant in reply to DSHornet. | October 15, 2022 at 9:37 am

          Chris believes that orbital mechanics and the math behind it are not trustworthy, or that the results of this experiment are made up.

          Not really worth arguing with someone who holds that position.

“All of us have a responsibility to protect our home planet. After all, it’s the only one we have,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

One might say that about our Country and it’s borders

    chrisboltssr in reply to gonzotx. | October 14, 2022 at 5:40 pm

    And yet they probably believe in open borders. That $330 million would have been better served finishing the wall.

American Human | October 14, 2022 at 12:19 pm

Think about it though. Americans sent a small spacecraft a few hundred million miles through space and crashed it onto a tiny asteroid moon exactly where they intended.
Continue thinking about it. in 1969 Americans sent men to the moon. In the intervening 53 years or so, no other country has done anything even remotely like this. Not the Commies, Russians, Germans, British, Indians, Japanese, etc.
From a purely scientific view point, this is an incredible accomplishment, no if, ands, or buts.
Hey you other countries previously mentioned, can any of you do this?

I think not.

BierceAmbrose | October 14, 2022 at 1:44 pm

Leaving out the important thing: what t-shirt was the mission director wearing? (How else will we know if we have to cancel him at his career peak moment.)