Was the DART mission a success? What happened in NASA asteroid redirection test, did it hit Dimorphos - video

The aim of NASA’s Dart mission was to show that dangerous incoming rocks can be deflected by deliberately smashing into them

A spacecraft built by NASA successfully crashed into a small asteroid soon after midnight on Monday (26 September) as part of a planetary protection test mission.

The aim of the mission was to demonstrate that dangerous incoming rocks can be deflected by deliberately smashing into them.

Nasa tweeted “IMPACT SUCCESS!” after its spacecraft, known as Double Asteroid Redirection Test (Dart), collided with the 170-metre wide (560ft) asteroid about 00:20 UK time on Tuesday (27 September).

The asteroid, named Dimorphos, poses no threat to Earth and is part of a binary asteroid system that orbits Didymos (a larger companion asteroid), which takes around 11 hours and 55 minutes.

NASA astronomers hope that Dart, while destroying itself in the process, will shorten this orbital period by about 10 minutes.

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NASA previously said: “Dart’s target asteroid is not a threat to Earth but is the perfect testing ground to see if this method of asteroid deflection – known as the kinetic impactor technique – would be a viable way to protect our planet if an asteroid on a collision course with Earth were discovered in the future.”

The Dart mission will be the first ever full-scale demonstration of asteroid deflection technology.

The spacecraft recently captured its first images of Didymos and Dimorphos in July when it was about 20 million miles (32 million km) away from the asteroid system. It used an onboard instrument, known as the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical navigation (Draco), to take the photos.

It has taken 10 months for Dart to come close to Dimorphous after launching last November on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

What did NASA say after the mission was successful?

The US space agency’s staff cheered and clapped in a video shared online as the vending machine-sized spacecraft successfully smashed into Dimorphos.

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A member of NASA’s team said in a video, recorded in the control room as the collision took place: “And we have impact. A triumph for humanity in the name of planetary defence.”

In a live question-and-answer session after the crash, senior leaders from NASA and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory said the mission was “straight down the middle” and nothing went wrong.

What happened during the mission?

The asteroids were around 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometres) from Earth when the collision happened.

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Dart accelerated at about 13,700 miles per hour (22,000 kilometres per hour) before colliding with Dimorphos.

The collision was recorded by a briefcase-sized satellite known as the Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids (LICIACube), which was provided by the Italian Space Agency.

LICIACube, which weighs just 14 kg (31 lbs), hitched a ride with Dart into deep space before recently separating from the spacecraft in a final farewell.

In 2024, the European Space Agency (ESA) will launch its Hera spacecraft, which will go on a two-year journey to the asteroid system to gather information in the aftermath of the crash.

ESA said: “By the time Hera reaches Didymos, in 2026, Dimorphos will have achieved historic significance: the first object in the Solar System to have its orbit shifted by human effort in a measurable way.”

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How to watch the mission

Dart will be returning images to Earth at the rate of one per second as it heads towards the smash. It is expected to make impact at 12.14am on Tuesday.

Nasa will livestream the impact on Nasa TV. You can watch this on the space agency’s website, or via its YouTube channel. Live coverage begins at 11pm on Monday.

How many asteroids are there near Earth?

There are currently around 27,000 asteroids in near-Earth orbit. Rocks that are 140 metres (460ft), larger in size and come nearer than 4.7 million miles (7.5 million km) during orbit are classed as potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs).