‘It felt like a movie plot, but this was not Hollywood.’ NASA says DART mission succeeded in altering asteroid’s trajectory


Do you think it’s real? Or is this just another NASA fake news? In summary, DART (the size of a vending machine) hit Dimorphos (the size of a football stadium), at 14,000 mph. This was enough of an impact to alter Dimorphos orbit trajectory around it’s parent asteroid by 37 minutes. An alteration of 10 minutes was expected, and as little as a minute and a half would have been considered a success. If it’s TRUE, this is huge…

DART mission successful
DART mission successful – NASA Confirms DART Mission Impact Changed Asteroid’s Motion in Space. This imagery from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope from Oct. 8, 2022, shows the debris blasted from the surface of Dimorphos 285 hours after the asteroid was intentionally impacted by NASA’s DART spacecraft on Sept. 26. The shape of that tail has changed over time. Scientists are continuing to study this material and how it moves in space, in order to better understand the asteroid.

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, the U.S. space agency announced on Tuesday.

The $330 million proof-of-concept mission, which was seven years in development, also represented the world’s first test of a planetary defense system designed to prevent a potential doomsday meteorite collision with Earth.

Findings of telescope observations unveiled at a NASA news briefing in Washington confirmed the suicide test flight of the DART spacecraft on Sept. 26 achieved its primary objective: changing the direction of an asteroid through sheer kinetic force.

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Astronomical measurements over the past two weeks showed the target asteroid was bumped slightly closer to the larger parent asteroid it orbits and that its orbital period was shortened by 32 minutes, NASA scientists said.

This is a watershed moment for planetary defense and a watershed moment for humanity,” NASA chief Bill Nelson told reporters in announcing the results. “It felt like a movie plot, but this was not Hollywood.

Last month’s impact, 6.8 million miles (10.9 million km) from Earth, was monitored in real time from the mission operations center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, where the spacecraft was designed and built for NASA.

DART’s celestial target was an egg-shaped asteroid named Dimorphos, roughly the size of a football stadium, that was orbiting a parent asteroid about five times bigger called Didymos once every 11 hours, 55 minutes.

The test flight concluded with the DART impactor vehicle, no bigger than a refrigerator, slamming directly into Dimorphos at about 14,000 miles per hour (22,531 kph).

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Comparison of pre- and post-impact measurements of the Dimorphos-Didymos pair as one eclipses the other shows the orbital period was shortened to 11 hours, 23 minutes, with the smaller object bumped tens of meters closer to its parent.

Tom Statler, DART program scientist for NASA, said the collision also left Dimorphos “wobbling a bit,” but additional observations would be necessary to confirm that.

The outcome “demonstrated we are capable of deflecting a potentially hazardous asteroid of this size,” if it were discovered well enough in advance, said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s planetary science division. “The key is early detection.

Neither of the two asteroids involved, nor DART itself, short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, posed any actual threat to Earth, NASA scientists said.

This is what the impact looked like:

But Nancy Chabot, DART’s coordination lead at APL, said Dimorphos “is a size of asteroid that is a priority for planetary defense.”

A Dimorphos-sized asteroid, while not capable of posing a planet-wide threat, could level a major city with a direct hit.

Scientists had predicted the DART impact would shorten Dimorphos’ orbital path by at least 10 minutes but would have considered a change as small as 73 seconds a success. So the actual change of more than a half hour, with a margin of uncertainty plus or minus two minutes, exceeded expectations.

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The relatively loose composition of rubble that Dimorphos appears to consist of may be a factor in how much the asteroid was budged by DART’s blow.

The impact blasted tons of rocky material from the asteroid’s surface into space, visible in telescope images as a large debris plume, producing a recoil effect that added to the force exerted on Dimorphos from the collision itself, NASA said.

Launched by a SpaceX rocket in November 2021, DART made most of its voyage under the guidance of flight directors on the ground, with control handed over to the craft’s autonomous on-board navigation system in the final hours of the journey.

Dimorphos and Didymos are both tiny compared with the cataclysmic Chicxulub asteroid that struck Earth some 66 million years ago, wiping out about three-quarters of the world’s plant and animal species including the dinosaurs.

If you are interested, here’s the full NASA press conference video… And it really looks like Hollywood…

Smaller asteroids are far more common and present a greater theoretical concern in the near term, making the Didymos pair suitable test subjects for their size, according to NASA scientists and planetary defense experts.

Also, the two asteroids’ relative proximity to Earth and dual configuration made them ideal for the DART mission.

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The Dimorphos moonlet is one of the smallest astronomical objects to receive a permanent name and is one of 27,500 known near-Earth asteroids of all sizes tracked by NASA.

Although none are known to pose a foreseeable hazard to humankind, NASA estimates that many more asteroids remain undetected in the near-Earth vicinity. [Reuters]

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  1. What the hell is up with the Nasa Chief, it looks like he was having a stroke throughout that announcement.

  2. Being able to protect your planet from catastrophic impacts from space is one of the evolutionary challenges faced by intelligent species. The dinosaurs failed. if we spend our efforts fighting one another for world dominance or political ideologies, we will fail also. This is a test.

  3. I watched Forbidden Planet again last night on my new portable dvd player. Much better special effects. One of my favorite old school sci-fi movies.

      • Just got my dvd set in the mail. Outer Limits, (1963) Complete set. What a hoot. Watching these always makes me happy. Took a while to find a set too. Seems very popular, and hard to obtain. I don’t have televsion, so once in a while I spend a couple bucks, and pick up some dvd’s. Radio news has been so dull, it isn’t even good background noise anymore.

    • Forbidden Planet set the standards for FX.
      The Beast in the fence has not been matched even with our supercomputers…well close.
      BUT…’Nice Beaver’….sorry different movie!!!
      Anyway, considering that FP was made in 1956, it still is the standard to beat for FX and SCI-FI movies.
      ‘Everything’s fine’…sorry different movie!
      Leslie Nielsen was one of the actors who made that movie work great.
      His interaction with his XO Jack Kelly, the stoopid comic relief cook Earl Holliman(!!!) and Walter Pidgeon…wonderful.
      OOPS…almost forgot Metal Man…Robbie the ROBOT!!!
      AND Chief Quinn was the quiet brain who held all together as all NCO’s do everyday in the Military!
      AND….and MS. Ann Francis and Demureness extreme!!!
      Why can’t Women be like that again?
      Demure but strong, beautiful but not nastily dressed and most of all…some damn class with high heels and the great dresses of the time?
      I know I’m an old fart now but the 40’s were the time of Big Bands and HOTLY dressed women!
      ‘Nice ankle bracelet…oh that’s where my IUD went!’…sorry sorry different movie.
      Back to the asteroid.
      Next time they can use a smaller but denser object to impact the asteroid to move it using less ‘size’ but greater mass. E=Mc2 … 2,000 pounds impacting at 15.5 miles per second means = 209,065,485,306.
      The ‘refrigerator’ weighed less and has a 10th of the impact energy. Load about 100 of these rammers in a small launch station and WALLA!!!…Boom city baby.
      BUT a govt will turn it on Earth assholes.

      • Michael,

        Ann Francis was a beauty. That is what kept my attention as a youth, besides the great special Fx. Happy to see you’re a fan of old sci-fi.

        I also liked The Thing from Outer Space. Have watched that several times throughout my life, and it never bores me either.

  4. Does NASA ever tell the truth? I’m a SciFi guy. Loved all the old science fiction stuff. Rockets. Going to planets and the Stars. NASA and their constant lies have taken all the fun out of it.

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