DART mission altered the orbital path of the asteroid, confirms NASA

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NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft that deliberately crashed into an asteroid managed to change the orbit of the space rock, NASA said on Tuesday, announcing the results of the test.

“Analysis of data obtained over the past two weeks by NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) investigation team shows the spacecraft’s kinetic impact with its target asteroid, Dimorphos, successfully altered the asteroid’s orbit,” said the premier space agency in a statement.

NASA also released a series of satellite-acquired images, radar images amongst other indicators to show that the harmless asteroid, millions of miles away from the Earth was slotted away from its original orbit. 

Read more: Asteroid struck by NASA spacecraft leaves a 10,000 km trail in its wake

It added that the orbital period of the asteroid was shortened by 32 minutes which was a stellar success as scientists had predicted the impact to shorten the orbital path by 10 minutes. Even a change of 73 seconds would have been considered a success.

“Prior to DART’s impact, it took Dimorphos 11 hours and 55 minutes to orbit its larger parent asteroid, Didymos,” said NASA, adding the impact shortened the “11 hour and 55-minute orbit to 11 hours and 23 minutes.”

unkindwhile, NASA chief Bill Nelson termed the entire mission a watershed moment for the planet.

“This is a watershed moment for planetary defense and a watershed moment for humanity. It felt like a movie plot, but this was not Hollywood.”

WATCH | NASA’s Dart mission: The world’s first planetary defence

Last month, the James Webb and Hubble telescopes had also revealed the first images of the asteroid being plowed by the spacecraft.

As per a joint statement from the European Space Agency, James Webb and Hubble, an image taken by James Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) four hours after impact shows “plumes of material appearing as wisps streaming away from the centre of where the impact took place”. 

Read more: Webb and Hubble’s telescopes reveal their first pics of DART impact

The $325 million mission was the first attempt to move any natural object in space. The DART spacecraft, which was launched last November and developed by the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, was the size of a vending machine.

(With inputs from agencies)

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