Successful asteroid collision: thrown off orbit

Status: 10/12/2022 8:34 AM

NASA succeeds in an experiment unprecedented in human history: an asteroid’s orbit was changed by a collision with a probe. What sounds like a movie takes years of preparation.

By Florian Mayer, ARD Studio Washington

It sounded like Hollywood action, but it was serious scientific endeavor. On Sept. 26, an unmanned NASA spacecraft the size of a refrigerator collided with the asteroid Dimorphos, seven million miles away. At almost 24,000 kilometers per hour. It had taken her nearly ten months from Earth to this point.

A direct hit, as NASA boss Bill Nelson explained. In two ways.

Because not only was Dimorphos exactly hit. The spacecraft’s impact also changed its orbit in space — which is exactly what the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is supposed to do.

NASA reports success in its asteroid mission

Torben Börgers, ARD Washington, Morning Magazine, October 12, 2022

Probe impact reduces orbital time by 32 minutes

Dimorphos is part of an asteroid pair. It revolves around the larger asteroid Didymos. And as it turns out, two weeks after the impact, that orbit has arguably changed since then.

While it took Dimorphos 11 hours and 55 minutes to orbit Didymos before the impact, it took 11 hours and 23 minutes after the spacecraft entered, Nelson explained. The orbital time was shortened by 32 minutes, so the orbit was shortened by the impact.

Experiment as part of the planetary defense system

An experiment unprecedented in human history – which will be a central part of NASA’s planetary defense system in the future. If an asteroid is on a collision course with Earth and it is spotted early enough, this method can be used to deflect it, Nelson said.

And then reached deep into the pathos box: NASA always tries to be ready for whatever the universe throws at us.

NASA boss Bill Nelson grabs the pathos box: his desk wants to be ready for everything the universe has to offer.

Image: AP

Science is pushing the brakes

It was then up to the scientists involved to step on the brakes after the appearance of the NASA boss. They also spoke of a great success for space exploration, but made it clear that it was only the first attempt of this kind.

There are countless asteroids in space, of various shapes and sizes. DART therefore does not provide general guidelines for deflecting every potentially dangerous asteroid, said Tom Statler, who is responsible for the DART mission at NASA: but DART’s results can be used to calculate and simulate how other scenarios of this type could be developed. discovers. .

No asteroids on collision course for the next 100 years

And Nancy Chabot, chief coordinator of the DART mission, made it clear that successfully guiding an asteroid away from Earth only works if you know the collision course years in advance. Ultimately, the impact of the spacecraft changed the test asteroid’s orbit by just four percent. That’s not enough for the Hollywood-ready, action-packed, candid screenplay.

However, according to NASA, there is still some time for more fundamental research – for now, no known asteroid should collide with Earth for the next 100 years.

Complete Success: NASA Presents DART Results

Florian Mayer, ARD Washington, October 12, 2022 5:48 a.m.

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