Data analysis shows that the collision of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft with its target asteroid moonlet Dimorphos changed the asteroid’s orbit.
Dimorphos, which does not pose a threat to Earth, took 11 hours and 55 minutes to orbit a larger asteroid dubbed Didymos and with DART’s impact, that time was shortened to 11 hours and 23 minutes, NASA said Wednesday.
“This result is one important step toward understanding the full effect of DART’s impact with its target asteroid” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s planetary science division.
“As new data come in each day, astronomers will be able to better assess whether, and how, a mission like DART could be used in the future to help protect Earth from a collision with an asteroid if we ever discover one headed our way,” added Glaze.
The DART investigation team is now looking at the efficiency of momentum transfer from the spacecraft’s 14,000-mile per hour collision with its target asteroid. Astronomers will also investigate Dimorphos imagery from the spacecraft’s terminal approach and from the Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids or LICIACube to get an estimate of the asteroid’s mass and shape.
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory developed and operated the DART spacecraft. APL also oversees the DART mission for the space agency’s planetary defense coordination office.