In September of last year, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test proved to be more successful than expected according to the study released in Nature.
The month of October was when NASA announced that their DART mission had successfully altered an asteroid’s orbit. Dimorphos orbits the bigger Didymos asteroid.
This was the first large-scale demonstration of the asteroid deflector technology. No celestial body was any danger to Earth.
“We can’t stop hurricanes or earthquakes yet, but we ultimately learned that we can prevent an asteroid impact with sufficient time, warning, and resources,” the University of Maryland Astronomy faculty member, as well as DART participant Derek Richardson, said in a press release.
“With sufficient time, a relatively small change in an asteroid’s orbit would cause it to miss the Earth, preventing large-scale destruction from occurring on our planet.”
The results confirm the viability of redirecting near-Earth objects as part of a global defense plan.
“Pre-impact, we expected the impact to shorten Dimorphos’ orbit by only about 10 minutes. But after the impact, we learned that the orbital period was shortened even more, reducing an ordinarily 12-hour orbit by slightly more than 30 minutes. In other words, the ejected material acted as a jet to push the moon even further out of its original orbit,” UMD principal researcher Tony Farnham said in a statement.
“With this information, we have the context to make our conjectures and evaluate our work.”
Debris spewed out after the impact can also have a role in changing the trajectory of the asteroid.
“There was so much debris ejected from the impact that Dimorphos was pushed approximately 3.5 times more effectively compared to being hit by the DART spacecraft alone,” Richardson said. Richardson.
Europe’s Space Agency’s Hera mission, set to launch in the month of October 2024, is anticipated to reveal more details about how the DART missions impact.