NASA DART Mission Successfully Smashes Asteroid Into New Pathway
NASA’s DART (Destination Asteroid Redirect Mission) spacecraft successfully smashed down an asteroid earlier today in its second long-duration mission to the vicinity of Ceres. The mission was originally scheduled for launch in March this year, but was delayed by several months with no clear reason, until the arrival of asteroid 2017 MU69 earlier this year.
After an intense amount of research for over a year, NASA scientists decided that it was best to go ahead with the DART mission, which is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program. The DART spacecraft is designed to capture and redirect an asteroid into a more favorable orbit.
DART is the largest of NASA’s Near-Earth Asteroid Scout missions, and is also the first to use a direct path to Ceres. NASA scientists wanted to capture the asteroid around two to four times closer to Earth than has been done in the past by using Earth’s gravity to pull the asteroid in and then use the spacecraft to deflect it again.
“The goal of this mission is to bring about a major change in the orbits of potentially hazardous asteroids; to provide a new and useful method of asteroid exploration; and to provide a safer transportation pathway for any spacecraft in the near-earth asteroid belt,” said Alan Hsieh, co-principal investigator of the DART mission at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
DART will study the path of asteroid 2017 MU69 as it enters our solar system and will use its close encounters with Ceres, the largest asteroid in the solar system, as a learning tool for the development of technologies to deflect an asteroid in the future.
“We’re not going to go to the moon. We’re going to go to Ceres,” said Dan Mahaffy, manager of the planetary defense division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The fact that we were able to do a successful mission is very impressive. We’re making great progress in our planning and our planning for the near-Earth space.”
“We knew it was a tough goal and we knew we