Was humanity saved? At least that is the idea after the spacecraft sent by NASA diverted the trajectory of an asteroid on Monday, thus fulfilling its objective as part of a novel “planetary defense” test that should allow better protection of the humanity from an eventual collision qualified as devastating with a cosmic object.
The ship, smaller than a car, crashed at more than 20,000 kilometers per hour against its target, which it reached at the scheduled time, 23:14 GMT. We explain in detail what happened with this mission.
What happened to the Dart mission?
This Monday, the photographs that show the members of the NASA teams, gathered in the mission control center in Maryland, burst with happiness at the spectacular images of the asteroid Dimorphos approaching until shortly before impact.
In the live broadcast, rocks could be clearly distinguished on the gray surface of the asteroid located about 11 million kilometers from Earth.
“We are embarking on a new era, where we potentially have the ability to protect ourselves from a dangerous asteroid impact,” said Lori Glaze, NASA’s director of planetary sciences.
“We will change the movement of a natural celestial body in space. Humanity has never done that before,” he explained.
What you need to know about the asteroid Dimorphos
Dimorphos measures about 160 meters in diameter and does not represent any danger to our planet . It is actually the satellite of another larger asteroid, Didymos, around which it orbited in 11 hours and 55 minutes. NASA was looking to reduce its orbit by about 10 minutes to bring it closer to Didymos.
It will take several days or perhaps weeks for scientists to confirm that the asteroid’s trajectory really changed , and they will do so thanks to telescopes on Earth that will observe the change in brightness when the small asteroid passes in front of or behind the large one.
Although the objective is still modest compared to that of science fiction films such as “Armageddon”, this “planetary defense” mission named DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) allows NASA to train in the event that a large asteroid threatens a day with impacting the Earth.