NASA

NASA says its asteroid defense test was a success

NASA smashed a spacecraft into an asteroid in an attempt to throw it off course. The mission succeeded beyond expectations, officials said.

Asteroid moonlet Dimorphos as seen by the DART spacecraft 11 seconds before impact.
Asteroid moonlet Dimorphos as seen by the DART spacecraft 11 seconds before impact. NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

NASA says its mission to knock an asteroid off course — a test of planetary defense — succeeded beyond its expectations.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) slammed a spacecraft into one asteroid to see if it could change its orbit around another asteroid.

It did.

About 7 million miles away from Earth, the asteroid Dimorphos is in orbit around a larger asteroid called Didymos. It usually takes 11 hours 55 minutes for Dimorphos to make a complete orbit.

After the DART spacecraft made impact two weeks ago, that orbit has shortened to 11 hours, 23 minutes: a 32-minute change.

“This is a watershed moment for defense,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “This mission shows that NASA is trying to be ready for whatever the universe throws at us.”

The two asteroids pose no threat to Earth, but the test is proof of concept that if another asteroid does appear headed in Earth’s direction, scientists have a way of pushing it off course.

“For the first time ever, humanity has changed the orbit of a planetary body,” said Lori Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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