For the first time in history, a handmade spacecraft crashed into an asteroid to see if it could thus affect the trajectory of the celestial body — it is expected that in the future it will help protect the Earth from potential threats from space.
The impact occurred at 02:14 Moscow time last night, and the test was aimed at changing the orbit of Dimorph, which revolves around a larger asteroid, Didim, in order to prove that humanity is in principle capable of responding to threats from space.
According to the NASA representative, the test was successful, and "" NASA joked that dinosaurs believed to be extinct after the Earth's impact with an asteroid 65 million years ago did not have a space program, and the current inhabitants of the Earth did not have a space program. A probe the size of a golf car and weighing 570 kg crashed into Dimorph at a speed of about 22530 km/h. NASA expected that the impact would reduce the orbit of Dimorphe around a larger body.
The planned collision was reported to have been in full-time mode, so the scientists did not have to resort to any of the 21 reserve plans that were in stock, with most of the activities being performed automatically by a probe. The mission ' s concept was presented as early as 2011 and launched on 23 November 2021. Until the impact, the main camera of the probe regularly sent images of an approaching object to Earth.
The "Kinetic Impact" is so far the main method offered by scientists to change the orbit of asteroids. Although the risk of the Earth colliding with the celestial body of significant size is relatively small, it is quite real. NASA has already discovered many asteroids that could potentially pose a threat to our planet. A new space telescope, the Near Earth Observer Surveyor, specifically designed to detect relevant objects, could be sent to space in 2026.
The Dymorph and Didim dual system was selected for the test for a certain reason: the first orbital period around the second is only 11 hours and 55 minutes, so any orbital changes will be observed quite quickly. Although the system is classified as "potentially hazardous", it does not pose any threat to the Earth. DART is expected to accelerate Dimorph in its orbit by about 10 minutes. According to NASA, the "minimum requirements" were 73 seconds, but scientists expect a larger change in speed.
The first results of the observations will be available today. Scientists expect that an asteroid impact will produce a crater with a diameter of about 20 m. Before the impact, DART released a small LICIACUbe cube designed to record the impact. It is expected that the images will be available to scientists in a few days, as the machine does not have a large antenna for rapid data transmission. Numerous space and ground telescopes also monitor the extent to which Dimorphe has accelerated in its orbit.
It is known that the European Space Agency intends to send its own mission to the dual-system, Didim Dimorph, and the European Space Agency plans to ship the spacecraft to the asteroid in 2024, and by 2027 it will be orbiting around the system for observations of objects and craters left behind by DART.