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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