By Travis Young— Correspondent
NASA has just succeeded with an experiment in space which took a step forward in saving humans and other species from a threat which wiped many species, like dinosaurs, from the earth long ago.
The mission, which is formally called D.A.R.T, or the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, was the first ever planetary defense test which helped us take a huge step towards being able to assist our planet in defending against asteroids and other objects orbiting Earth that are a threat to our planet. The objective of this mission, which was developed and led for NASA by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, was to slightly change the direction of one of the unharmful asteroids in our solar system called Dimorphos, which showed that we can redirect the orbit of an asteroid and keep our planet safe. They achieved this feat by launching the spacecraft, called DART, which took about 10 months to get to the asteroid.
The US Space Agency says they are thrilled with the results. “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,” said the U.S Space Agency.
Lindley Johnson, a Planetary Defense Officer for NASA, was happy to be a part of the world’s first efforts against this natural disaster. “This demonstrates we are no longer powerless to prevent this type of natural disaster. Coupled with enhanced capabilities to accelerate finding the remaining hazardous asteroid population by our next Planetary Defense mission, the Near-Earth Object (NEO) Surveyor, a DART successor, could provide what we need to save the day,” she said.
Johnson also says that it is great that we have this ability and we have given a good push in defending our planet against these harmful asteroids. “DART’s success provides a significant addition to the essential toolbox we must have to protect Earth from a devastating impact by an asteroid,” she said.
There will also be an identical mission by the European Space Agency, called the Hera Mission, which will launch in 2024 and get there in 2026, four years after the DART mission. But this mission will go after the other twin asteroid, called Didymos. This mission is supposed to be the more accurate of the two. Although these missions will be performed separately, their data will be very helpful, says the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
“DART and Hera are being designed and operated independently, but their combination will boost the overall knowledge return to a significant degree,” said John Hopkins University.
Both missions are apart of a bigger mission called AIDA, or The Asteroid Impact and Deflection Mission, which is the group of a bunch of international planetary defense institutions that will bring all of the information they have and bring it all together to see the bigger picture and be able to get a better understanding of how to defend our planet. It also shows how different areas of the world collaborate about this problem. “The AIDA collaboration exemplifies the acknowledgment that planetary defense is an international effort and that scientists and engineers around the world seek to solve problems related to planetary defense through international collaborations,” said John Hopkins University.