“Today, NASA confirms that DART has successfully altered the trajectory of the target asteroid,” Nelson said at a press conference celebrating the mission’s results.
On September 27, the 633-kilogram probe slammed into the 160-meter-diameter asteroid Dimorph, about 11 million kilometers from Earth, at a speed of 6.2 kilometers per second. The collision was observed by the Italian LICIACube CubeSat, which had separated from the probe five days earlier.
According to the head of NASA, before the start of the mission, the time for the asteroid Dimorph to make one rotation around the asteroid Didyma, in whose orbit it is located, was 11 hours and 55 minutes. After the probe collided with Dimorph, astronomers using ground-based telescopes found that its orbital period decreased by 32 minutes, changing its trajectory.
DART is the first mission to alter the trajectory of an asteroid to protect Earth from a potentially dangerous collision. Before the test, management repeatedly emphasized that Dimorph, which is part of the larger Didyma asteroid system, posed no threat to Earth.
The impact probe was launched last November using SpaceX’s heavy-duty Falcon 9 rocket.