NASA’s DART mission proves we can protect Earth from asteroids

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Remember when NASA crashed a spacecraft into an asteroid last September to see what would happen? Well, a research team led by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab (APL) has released a paper confirming that the successful Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission wasn’t just for fun; it proves that humanity can deflect asteroids and actually save the planet.

NASA outlined the conclusion in a new blog post on Wednesday, explaining that the “kinetic impactor” technique, which APL writer Ajai Raj jokingly defines as “hitting something against something else,” could indeed be used as an effective means of planetary defense.

“These findings add to our fundamental understanding of asteroids and provide a foundation for how humanity can defend Earth from a potentially dangerous asteroid by altering its course,” Nicola Fox, NASA’s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, said in the blog post. from the desk. The findings are part of a series of four articles published in Nature describes the results and takeaways of the DART mission.

The mission of September 26 last year changed the orbit of asteroid moonlet Dimorphos by 33 minutes, as calculated in one of the papers. The DART spacecraft launched debris from the asteroid at the point of impact, known as ejecta. The knockback effect of the debris was found to have contributed more to the change in the asteroid’s momentum than the impact itself.

APL authors reported in another paper that asteroids like Dimorphos about half a mile in diameter can be successfully deflected by this method and do not require a preliminary reconnaissance mission. But the writers warn that Earthlings need enough warning time, ideally decades in advance or at least several years, to mitigate such a threat.

All in all, there is a lot of optimism about humanity’s ability to protect itself from giant space rocks. And we’re going to have to pass on the recipe for doing this whole kinetic impactor thing to the next generation, because according to the APL, “no known asteroid poses a threat to Earth for at least the next century.”

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