Nasa‘s asteroid-deflecting DART spacecraft successfully slammed into its target on Monday, 10 months after launch.
The test of the world’s first planetary defense system will determine how prepared we are to prevent a doomsday collision with Earth.
The cube-shaped “impactor” vehicle, roughly the size of a vending machine with two rectangular solar arrays, flew into the asteroid Dimorphos, about as large as a football stadium, and self-destructed around 7.14pm EDT (11pm GMT) some 6.8 million miles (11 million km) from Earth.
The mission’s finale tested the ability of a spacecraft to alter an asteroid’s trajectory with sheer kinetic force, plowing into the object at high speed to nudge it astray just enough to keep our planet out of harm’s way.
It will be the first time humanity has changed the motion of an asteroid, or any celestial body. Nasa has a live stream of the event, which you can find at the top of our live blog below.
How to watch live
When will crash happen? The key times
Hello and welcome...
Monday 26 September 2022 12:51 , Andrew Griffin
... to The Independent’s live coverage of Nasa’s DART mission, its plan to crash into an asteroid to try out how it might save Earth.
Collision will happen on Monday evening
Monday 26 September 2022 13:22 , Andrew Griffin
Nasa predicts that DART will crash into its asteroid, Dimorphos, at 7.14pm local time on Monday evening. That’s just after midnight in the UK.
(It might take a short while to know it has actually done so, successfully, with engineers needing to receive and then pick through the data.)
How to watch live
Monday 26 September 2022 13:24 , Andrew Griffin
Nasa will be hosting live coverage from 6pm local eastern time, through its NASA TV platforms. The best way to watch them tends to be through YouTube, though they can be found on Nasa’s own website, and that stream is below:
Nasa will also be providing images from the spacecraft itself, starting at 5.30pm, through its media channel. That will give just the pictures, without the explanation, so might be harder to follow but more peaceful. That stream is here:
Nasa also looking towards the Moon and Artemis
Monday 26 September 2022 14:27 , Andrew Griffin
By the end of the day, Nasa could have a big success on its hands with DART. But it could also be dealing with yet more worries from another source: the Moon, and the Artemis rocket that aims to get there.
The rocket was meant to set off weeks ago, and after delays was meant to be setting off today. But a variety of problems – the latest being a tropical storm – have caused it to be delayed.
Today, Nasa could announce that they’ll have to move the rocket back off its launchpad. If that happens then there won’t be a launch until November at the earliest.
How the DART mission could save life on Earth
Monday 26 September 2022 15:28 , Andrew Griffin
Scientists will often tell you about how their work is helping humanity. But it’s rare that it’s quite so obvious: the DART mission could one day stop humanity from being wiped out. Here’s how.
Artemis launch attempt cancelled
Monday 26 September 2022 15:52 , Andrew Griffin
Nasa will roll back its Artemis rocket from its launchpad, and give up on launching it any time soon. The decision comes after a run of problems – the most recent being an incoming tropical storm.
(This doesn’t directly affect DART, which is being run entirely separately, but it is a busy day for Nasa!)
Webb telescope aimed at asteroid
Monday 26 September 2022 16:43 , Andrew Griffin
Another of Nasa’s big recent projects, the James Webb Space Telescope, is going to try and have a look at today’s proceedings. It’s pointing towards the asteroid that Nasa will try and smash into today.
Nasa says Earth ‘strikes back’ against asteroids
Monday 26 September 2022 17:37 , Anthony Cuthbertson
Nasa has shared an animation of the DART mission to its official Twitter account, with a dramatic voiceover that rivals any trailer for an apocalypse movie.
“In a galaxy where asteroids have pummelled planets for millions of years, now, one planet strikes back,” it says. “For the first time in our planet’s history, Nasa will test an asteroid deflection technique. It’s the first planetary defence method of its kind.”
You can watch it here:
🛰️ This is only a test – of planetary defense. Today, our #DARTMission is set to crash into a non-hazardous asteroid to test deflection technology, should we ever discover a threat.
Impact: 7:14pm ET (23:14 UTC). Watch our LIVE broadcast at 6pm ET: https://t.co/VAfF5ZXcYB pic.twitter.com/czGqnYJIGJ
— NASA (@NASA) September 26, 2022
Nasa live stream of Dart mission counts down to asteroid deflection test
Monday 26 September 2022 18:34 , Anthony Cuthbertson
Nasa is providing a live feed from a camera onboard its Didymos space craft for its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). The Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical Navigation – AKA the Draco camera – is the only instrument onboard.
The real-time stream sends one image of the approaching asteroid per second to Earth. You can watch it live here:
If you’re wondering what you’re looking at, Nasa explains: “In the hours before impact, the screen will appear mostly black, with a single point of light. That point is the binary asteroid system Didymos which is made up of a larger asteroid named Didymos and a smaller asteroid that orbits around it called Dimorphos. As the 7.14 pm EDT (23.14 GMT) impact of asteroid Dimorphos nears closer, the point of light will get bigger and eventually detailed asteroids will be visible.”
Nasa says ‘no cause for alarm’ about asteroid mission
Monday 26 September 2022 19:11 , Anthony Cuthbertson
Whoever is in charge of Nasa’s social media accounts has been busy over the last couple of hours since posting the theatrical animation of the DART mission.
A lot of users appeared concerned that deflecting the asteroid could have a knock-on effect would lead to unintended damage to other planets or celestial bodies.
“There is no cause for alarm. DART is too small to knock Dimorphos out of its orbit around Didymos,” reads one Twitter reply from the US space agency. “This impact will change the path of the smaller asteroid just enough to be measured by Earth-based telescopes (less than per cent). This asteroid is both well known and well studied.”
Monday 26 September 2022 20:12 , Jon Kelvey
Nasa’s Dart spacecraft is moments away from transitioning to full autonomous navigation, relying on the computer algorithms that will guide Dart the rest of the way on its terminal mission to smash into the asteroid Dimorphos.
“We’re about six minutes away from transitioning to autonomous mode in terms of navigation,” Robert Braun told reporters at a press event at the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory around 3.10pm EDT Monday afternoon. APL and Jet Propulsion Laboratory enginers have been managing the Dart mission for Nasa — and guiding the spacecraft — in the months since it launched in November, 2021.
Nasa and APL will be providing updates and background to the media throughout the afternoon and into the early evening ahead of the Dart impact, which is expected at 7.14pm EDT.
Monday 26 September 2022 20:35 , Jon Kelvey
Robert Braun told reporters Monday afternoon that when thinking about the Dart mission this morning, it gave him goosebumps — it’s the first time humans will try to change the course of a celestial object.
“Proving the technology to deflect an asteroid,” he said, “that’s something of importance to the entire Earth.”
The mission is also different than most other missions APL has been involved in with Nasa, Braun said. When you’re landing on Mars, for instance, you’re waiting and hoping for a first signal from the lander, and maybe some images.
“Here what we’re waiting for is a loss of signal,” he said. “Here what were cheering for is the loss of the spacecraft.”
Confidence of Dart’s success is high, but there could be uneexpected holes in the plan
Monday 26 September 2022 20:54 , Jon Kelvey
Nasa will know by 7.14pm EDT if the Dart mission was successful in striking the asteroid Dimporphos around 6.8 million miles from Earth.
The world can watch the lead up however, as Nasa TV has begun showing images taken the Dart spacecraft’s navigational camera, known as Draco, according to Robert Braun, the head of the space exploration sector at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), which manages the Dart mission for Nasa.
“What you will see are images coming back from Draco on a 1 per second cycle,” Braun told reporters at APL Monday afternoon. “It will get bigger and bigger in the field of view, and I would suspect the last image may even be a partial image.”
That partial image would be due to the high velocity of Dart, which will strike Dimorphos at 14,400 miles per hour.
And it almost certainly will hit Dimorphos, barring some very unusual circumstances, according to Braun — since Dimporphos is too small to see clearly from Earth, it could hold some surprises yet.
“There are all kinds of crazy scenarios. We don’t know the shape of what we’re goin to hit right now,” Braun told reporters. “Ao if we we’re right on course bu it was shipped like a doughnut, we might fly right through it. But that’s unlikley.”
All eyes on Dart on Dimorphos Monday
Monday 26 September 2022 21:06 , Jon Kelvey
Nasa’s Dart mission is about to attempt the unprecedented in moving a celestial object, the asteroid Dimorphos. But hitting that asteroid is just the first part of the mission, according to Nasa’s Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen.
The Hubble Space Telescope, The James Webb Space Telescope, and the Lucy spacecraft, a Nasa mission to the asteroids near Jupiter, will all be focusing on Dimorphos when Dart slams into the asteroid around 7.14pm EDT Monday, Dr Zurbuchen told reporters at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory Monday afternoon.
“The question is will they see a brightening of that object,” he said. “That comes from ejecting dust and having that be hit by the Sun and therefore changing the brightness.”
The images will not be particularly large or clear, Dr Zurbuchen added.
“Just think of the size of these objects, they are minuscule,” he said. “Like seeing a football stadium from many millions of miles away, so that is what we are trying to do.”
Monday 26 September 2022 21:33 , Jon Kelvey
Even as the big Hubble and and James Webb Space Telescopes turn their massive mirrors on the asteroid Dimporphos ahead of Nasa’s Dart impact test Monday evening, there are other, smaller eyes tracking the asteroid.
The Italian space agency’s Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids, or LiciaCube, hitched a ride to Dimorphos on Dart before separating from Nasa’s spacecraft on 11 September. The microwave sized satellite is now following about three minutes behind Dart and will be positioned to observe Dart’s impact on Dimorphos from a safe distance.
Those image likely won’t be available for a day or two, Nancy Chabot told reporters at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory Monday afternoon. Dr Chabot is the a planetary scientist and Dart mission coordination lead at APL.
What LiciaCube will be looking for, she said, are the materials thrown out and away from Dimophos when Dart stikes the asteroid at more than 14,000 miles per hour, materials known as ejecta.
“That is one of main reasons to do the Dart test, is to see how much ejecta,” Dr Chabot said. “This isn’t just billiard balls.”
No one really knows how much ejecta will be generated, because no one has gotten a close up look at Dimorphos, which is about the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza — large for a person, but very tiny when 6.8 million miles from Earth. Depending on what the asteroid is made of and its consistency, there could be more or less material thrown off by Dart’s impact.
One thing is for certain however, Dr Chabot told reporters, in the combat between Dart and Dimorphos,” the spacecraft will lose.”
The origin of the Dart mission
Monday 26 September 2022 22:24 , Jon Kelvey
Monday’s Dart mission has its origins in the exercise habits of Andy Cheng, chief scientist for planetary defense at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL).
“I conceived of the mission that would become Dart in my basement,” Dr Cheng told reporters at APL Monday afternoon. “In early 2011, I was doing some exercises, stretches, in my basement ... and I had on my mind, ‘we should really do a planetary defense mission. It’s time.”
But it wasn’t the notion of planetary defense missions that was unique or new, it was Cheng’s recipe for conducting it.
European scientists in 2004 conducted a detailed study of a potential mission to study the change in an asteroids orbit around the Sun after striking it with a kinetic impactor like Dart. But that required a second space craft, Dr Cheng said — one craft to hit the asteroid, and another to watch.
“It cost too much,” and never got off the ground, he said.
Dr Cheng’s new idea was to target a binary asteroid system. A change in the orbit of a smaller asteroid around a larger one is much easier to detect that the subtle change in an asteroid’s much larger orbit around the Sun, and could even be observed by ground-based telescopes, obviating the need for an expensive second spacecraft.
“That idea stuck, and I took it to Nasa,” Dr Cheng said.
Monday 26 September 2022 22:43 , Jon Kelvey
While ground based telescopes and space based telescopes will be monitoring the Dart spacecraft’s impact of the asteroid Dimorphos at 7.14pm EDT Monday evening, scientists will won’t just be monitoring in optical wavelengths. Radar will play an important role, and may make the definitive measurements that tell scientists just how much Dart changes the orbit of its asteroid target.
“Radar is extremely precise,” Northern Arizona University Planetary Scientist Cristina Thomas told reporters at a Monday afternoon press event at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. “We know right now, to a very high level, exactly where Dimorphos should be. So if you send that radar ping out and it’s not where it should be, that should tell you about that shift in position.”
Radar observations could detect a change in Dimorphos’s orbit within a day or two, Dr Thomas added. That change could be very small at first, but will grow over time, and the small asteroids orbit around its larger companion could ultimately shift as much as 10 minutes.
Dimorphos currently takes an hour and 55 minutes to complete one orbit.
One radio telescope that will not participate in the Dart mission is the now defunct Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico; the telescope was decommissioned following irreparable damage after Hurricane Maria crashed through the US territory.
“Arecibo was planned to be used [for Dart],” APL planetary scientists and APL Coordination Lead for the Dart mission Nancy Chabot said. “The loss of Arecibo is still felt in the community.”
How to watch Dart
Monday 26 September 2022 22:54 , Jon Kelvey
Nasa’s Dart space craft is getting closer to its date with destiny — the refrigerator sized spacecraft will slam into the small asteroid Dimorphos at 7.14pm EDT Monday, not much more than an hour from now.
You can actually see Dimorphos and its larger companion asteroid, Didymos, as a single point of light in the feed from Dart’s camera. Nasa is maintaining a live feed from the camera on the space agency’s media channel, and the image should update about once a second right up to the moment Dart crashes into the asteroid.
Beginning at 6pm EDT, NASA TV will begin carrying a broadcast with commentary on the mission that will last through the moment of truth at 7.14 p.m.
The Independent will keep you updated on this blog as the mission draws closer to its terminal destination.
Nasa Dart broadcast is now live
Monday 26 September 2022 23:03 , Jon Kelvey
Nasa has begun its broadcast covering its Dart mission to “alter the orbit of an asteroid, forever.”
Could Dart deflect an asteroid threatening Earth?
Monday 26 September 2022 23:18 , Jon Kelvey
Dart is targeting Dimorphos, a small asteroid about 500 feet across that does not threaten Earth and will not, even after it’s orbit is altered by Dart’s crashing into it Monday evening.
“The closest this asteroid will ever get to Earth is 4 million miles,” Northern Arizona University Planetary Scientist Cristina Thomas told reporters at a Monday afternoon press event at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.
Dart is designed to test the concept of a “kinetic impactor,” an experiment to see if a Dart-like spacecraft could be built in the future to deflect an asteroid that threatened our planet.
But if Dimorphos, or an asteroid like were threatening Earth, would Dart itself be capable of diverting it? After all, Dart is “essentially a very heavy vending machine,” Dr Thomas said, “that is about to collide with , essentially the Great Pyramid of Giza.”
“We do think something like Dart would be big enough to deflect a Dimophos-sized object,” APL Dart impact modeling working group lead Angela Stickle told reporters Monday afternoon, “If we had a few years notice.”
Despite the size difference between Dart and its target, Dart is moving very fast, and, Dr Stickle said, it doesn’t take a massive one-time blow to change an asteroid’s orbit.
“In space, little pushes can add up to a lot,” she said. “The push we give it will be enough to change its orbit by 10 minutes.”
Nasa detects Dimorphos
Monday 26 September 2022 23:19 , Jon Kelvey
Engineers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory announced at 6.14pm EDT that they have detected the asteroid Dimorphos in the Dart spacecraft’s camera for the first time.
Dart, which will slam into Dimophos in one hour, has been locked on to the small asteroids large companion, Didymos.
Within the next 10 minute, Dart will lock on to Dimorphos, and fly autonomously until the moment of impact.
To the naked eye, Dimophos and Didymos still appear as a small white dot on the Nasa feed of the Dart cameras.
How to find Dimorphos in the Nasa live feed
Monday 26 September 2022 23:28 , Jon Kelvey
Clearly visible in the center of the feed is a bright white dot, which is the asteroid Didymos.
Dimorphos, the small asteroid moonlet orbiting Didymos, and Dart’s target, is harder to find.
To find Dimorphos, look at the white dot that is Didymos and then find two o’clock, if Didymos was a clock face. Dimorphos can be seen very close to Didymos at that point on the clock, but is very, very faint compared to the bright Didymos.
“We are mostly looking at light from Didymos,” Northern Arizona University Planetary Scientist Cristina Thomas told reporters at a Monday afternoon press event at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. “Dimorphos is only about 4% of the light from the system.”
Dart has locked on to its target
Monday 26 September 2022 23:32 , Jon Kelvey
The Dart spacecraft has now locked on to its target, the asteroid Dimorphos, according to Nasa.
Dart has been flying autonomously since a little after 3pm. Monday, it’s SmartNav algorithms using the image Didymos, the larger, bright, companion asteroid of Dimorphos, to guide the spacecraft’s flight.
As of a few minutes before 6.30pm EDT, less than an hour from the moment Dart will slam into Dimorphos at 14,400 miles per hour, the spacecraft has its target lock.
The currently small and faint image of Dimorphos will grow rapidly as Dart nears its final destination, and the space rock may grow to fill the entire camera view in the last few moments before the signal is lost, a sign, in this case, of a critical success for the mission.
How big a crater will Dart make in Dimorphos
Monday 26 September 2022 23:45 , Jon Kelvey
Dart will strike the asteroid Dimorphos at 14,400 miles per hour, which is pretty fast.
But it’s not that fast, according to Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory Dart impact modeling working group lead Angela Stickle.
“We are not going that fast in terms of these hypervelocity space impacts,” she told reporters Monday. “We don’t expect Dart to vaporize.”
The roughly 1,200 pound, golf cart sized Dart, which is flanked by two, school bus sized solar arrays, could make a crater anywhere from four meters to 20 meters wide on Dimorphos, according to Dr Stickle. It really depends on what Dimorphos is made of; the space rock could be anything from a lump of sand to a solid rocky mass.
Learning what an actualy asteroid is made of and how it really responds to a mission like Dart is crucial for modeling the effects of a future Dart-like mission to divert an actually threatening asteroid.
“We can do a lot in a lab on Earth, but there are no materials on Earth that simulate asteroids very well,” Dr Stickle said.
Nasa is moments away from hitting an asteroid with a spaceship
Tuesday 27 September 2022 00:00 , Jon Kelvey
If you’re just tuning in, Nasa is just minutes away from smashing a spacecraft into an asteroid at more than 4 miles per second.
Nasa’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or Dart, will smash into the small asteroid Dimorphos at 7.14pm EDT. Launched in November 2021, Dart is designed to test whether a spacecraft can change the orbit of an asteroid, a technique that could one day save Earth from a threatening space rock.
Dimorphos does not now threaten Earth, and will not after geing struck by Dart, which is why Nasa selected the small astertoid for the test.
You can watch the impact on NASA TV.
Five minute to impact
Tuesday 27 September 2022 00:10 , Jon Kelvey
Dart is now five minutes from impact with the asteroid Dimorphos, which is now clearly visible in the live feed from the spacecraft’s navigation cameras. Dart is 1,100 miles from its terminal destination.
Tuesday 27 September 2022 00:22 , Jon Kelvey
At 7.14pm ET, Nasa made history by slamming a spacecraft into an asteroid, marking the first time life on Earth has altered the course of a heavenly body.
Nasa’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft, or Dart, slammed into the asteroid Dimorphos at 14,400 miles per hour to test whether the impact can alter the asteroid’s orbit. A faint grey smudge in the Dart spacecraft’s camera’s just minutes early, Dimorphos grew to become a huge, greyscale dragon’s egg, studded with boulders, as the spacecraft drew close in the moments before impact.
Tuesday 27 September 2022 00:57 , Jon Kelvey
Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory Dart impact modeling working group lead Angela Stickle joined reporters immediately following the impact of the Dart spacecraft to cheer for the successful mission and celebrate the the lack of weird surprises.
“It was not a doughnut!” she cried.
Stickle and other engineers had worried early Monday about the possibility that Dimorphos would turn out to be a strange shape that could have allowed Dart to fly through or around the space rock, despite being locked on with its navigation system.
Dart mission press conference
Tuesday 27 September 2022 00:59 , Jon Kelvey
After a successful Dart mission making history by slamming a spacecraft into an asteroid for the first time ever, Nasa and Applied Physics Laboratory officials are holding a post-impact press conference at 8pm EDT available online on Nasa TV.
Dart came within 17 meters of a bullseye
01:08 , Jon Kelvey
While it will require later analysis of images of the Dart spacecraft impact to know for sure, Applied Physics Laboratory engineers believe Dart hit within 17 meters of the dead center of the asteroid Dimorphos when the spacecraft struck the space rock at 7.14pm EDT Monday.
01:32 , Jon Kelvey
As the image of Dimorphos grew from a faint spec, to a grey smudge, and then a real object in the camera’s of Nasa’s Dart mission Applied Physics Laboratory Dart Mission Systems Engineer Elena Adams breathed a sigh of relief.
“That was the defining moment,” Dr Adams told reporters at a post-mission press conference Monday evening.
Dr Adams and her colleagues at the APL control room in Laural Maryland were largely able to stand and watch closely as Dart drew near its target, the asteroid Dimorphos, just as members of the public did, the spacecraft having been set to fly autonomously to its terminal destination in the last five minutes of its life.
“As we were getting close to the asteroid, there was a lot of both terror and joy, because we saw that we were going to impact this asteroid was coming into the field of view of the first time,” Dr Adams said. “All of us were kind of holding our breath.”
Now that its over, and successful, she’s “ a little numb,” she said. “So many years of work are now complete.
Dr Adams has been working on the Dart mission for the past seven years.
But the mission isn’t actually over yet. In the coming days, weeks and months, scientists will begin getting back images and data from telescopes and radar that will help confirm if Dart was successful in moving the orbit of the asteroid it struck.
The ultimate conclusion of the mission is actually years away, when the European Space Agency Hera mission visits Dimorphos in 2026 to view the impact creater left behind by Dart, the first ever planetary defense mission.
The James Webb Space Telescope is watching Didymos right now
02:21 , Jon Kelvey
At 9.08pm EDT, the James Webb Space Telescope Observations Twitter account announced the big space telescope had a new target for the next 12 minutes: Didymos, the large companion asteroid around which Dart’s target orbits.
I am now observing DIDYMOS using NIRCam Imaging for 12 minutes. Keywords: Asteroid. Proposal: https://t.co/CTkUkyFMgV 37:1
— JWSTObservations (@JWSTObservation) September 27, 2022
Just less than two hours after Nasa’s Dart smashed into the small, egg-shaped asteroid Dimorphos at 14,400, the Webb telescope is using it’s Near-Infrared Camera (Nircam) instrument to survey the system, and may obtain infrared images of the ejecta thrown out from Dimorphos by Dart’s impact. That’s particularly likely given that the last images from Dart showed that Dimorphos is likely a “rubble pile” type asteroid, a loose conglomeration of material rather than a big solid rock.
“If this is actually a rubble pile, that means it is pretty low in strength, and that means you will get a lot of ejecta,” Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory Dart instrument scientist Carolyn Ernst told reporters following the Dart impact. “If you could hover over it right now, there could still be ejecta coming out because the gravity of this thing is so low.
A cute pile of rubble
02:42 , Jon Kelvey
Despite its approaching at 14,400 miles per hour, Nasa’s Dart spacecraft was able to capture incredibly detailed images of the asteroid Dimorphos before it slammed into the egg-shaped space rock at 7.14pm EDT Monday evening.
“That moon looked very egg shaped with a bunch of boulders on top like it’s a pile of rubble,” Carolyn Ernst, instrument scientist for Dart’s navigation camera at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory told reporters Monday night. “It’s adorable, this little moon. It’s so cute.”
Rubble pile asteroids are not solid rock or metal ore, but are instead loosely consolidated mixtures of other rocks,clay, sand, ice, and other materials. Learning more about what the asteroid Dimorphos was made out of was an important part of the Dart mission, as any the approach taken by any future missions to deflect an asteroid will depend greatly on that asteroid’s consistency.
And Dart’s camera’s didn’t just provide exquisite images of the features on Dimorphos — they also caught its larger companion Didymos as the spacecraft sped toward its fate.
“I was a little surprised by the shape of Didymos too ... it was a little more elongated than I thought,” Dr Ernst said. As more images become available from other sources, she said, “We’re going to be able to tell a lot about how the system formed and what it has experienced over time.
Those sources include ground based telescopes, the Hubble and James Webb Space Telescopes, and the Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids, or LiciaCube, a small space craft that piggy backed on Dart until relatively recently in its travels.
While images taken from the space telescopes and other instruments may take awhile to reach the public, LiciaCube images could be made public in the next couple of days.
Nothing went wrong
03:15 , Jon Kelvey
At the end of the day, the Dart mission went exceptionally well, according to the team of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory engineers and scientists that made it possible.
“This mission was right down the middle of what we expect and we made no adjustments,” Mark Jensenius, a guidance and navigation control engineer at the Applied Physics Laboratory, told reporters after the successful Dart impact, “Zero.”
“I was actually kind of disappointed,” APL Dart Missions Systems Engineer Elena Adams added. “We planned for all these contingencies and then we did none of them.”
The mission control team at APL had practiced 21 contingencies in case something went wrong with the Dart spacecraft, which was almost entirely autonomous in its last hour of flight toward the asteroid Dimorphos. Those contingencies includes how to conserve propellant and come around for another pass if they somehow missed the small asteroid.
In the end, they hit it nearly dead center, within about 17 meters of the bullseye.
Sleeping well thanks to Dart
03:40 , Jon Kelvey
Dart successfully impacted the small asteroid Dimorphos, proving that it’s possible to build a spacecraft to autonomously target and strike a distant asteroid at high speed.
Although it will take longer for scientists to collect more observations and determine how much Dart actually altered the orbit of Dimorphos, the first big challenge, proving the concept of a kinetic impactor, has been met. That means the response to any future threat from a hazardous asteroid or comet can be met with models, planning and a physical response, according to Applied Physics Laboratory Dart Missions Systems Engineer Elena Adams, rather. Humanity’s potential response to the kind of threat that once wiped out the dinosaurs is no longer purely theoretical.
“As far can tell, our first planetary defense test was a success, and I think we can all clap to the that,” Dr Adams told reporters at APL in Maryland following the Dart impact, receiving a great applause. “I think all earthlings should sleep better — I know I will.”
Dart a “real genefit for humanity"
04:30 , Jon Kelvey
Nasa’s Dart mission was a major technical achievement that provided incredible views of a distant asteroid never before seen by human eyes, but it was also humanity’s first step toward taking an active role in protecting ourselves, and all other life on planet Earth, from dangerous asteroid or comet strikes.
“At its core, DART represents an unprecedented success for planetary defense, but it is also a mission of unity with a real benefit for all humanity,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. “As NASA studies the cosmos and our home planet, we’re also working to protect that home, and this international collaboration turned science fiction into science fact, demonstrating one way to protect Earth.”
While neither the 525-foot diameter Dimorphos, the asteroid Dart successfully struck at 7.14 p.m. EDT Monday, nor its larger, 2,560-foot-diameter companion asteroid Didymos, pose a threat to Earth. But that’s what made the system a good laboratory for testing the “kinetic impactor” technique that could one day divert such asteroids if they were on a collision course with Earth.
An asteroid the size of Dimorphos, if it struck the Earth, could generate as a blast releasing energy equivalent to 170 million tons of exploding TNT, according to University of North Dakota assistant professor of Space Studies Sherry Fieber-Beyer, far more than the 50 million tons of energy released by the most powerful thermonuclear bomb ever detonated.
But engineers believe that a spacecraft like Dart could successfully divert an asteroid like Dimorphos if it were headed toward Earth, given a few years heads up. Now the data from Dart will help scientists and engineers adjust their models and learn exactly what they might need to do, and how to do it, if a big space rock appears with Earth’s name on it.
“Planetary Defense is a globally unifying effort that affects everyone living on Earth,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for Nasas Science Mission Directorate said in a statement. “Now we know we can aim a spacecraft with the precision needed to impact even a small body in space. Just a small change in its speed is all we need to make a significant difference in the path an asteroid travels.”
Dart fly over your Google search results
05:02 , Jon Kelvey
Nasa’s Dart mission made history Monday night, becoming the first spacecraft to ever target and slam into an asteroid in an attempt to change the asteroid’s trajectory through space.
Now, Google has given the groundbreaking spacecraft a tip of the hat, or at least the search result. In the same playful spirit of the Google doodles that have honored scientists, artists, and the late Queen Elizabeth II, Google results currently feature a cameo by the now departed Dart spacecraft.
If you type “DART mission” into a Google search bar, the Dart spacecraft swoops across the screen from the left and knocks your search results temporarily askew.
Nasa posts the Dart re-run
05:14 , Jon Kelvey
Nasa’s has shared a short video replay of the Dart mission’s successful final moments on the social media network Twitter.
The space agency posted the short video shortly after its Dart spacecraft smashed into the asteroid Dimorphos at 14,400 miles per hour at 7.14pm EDT Monday evening.
Did you catch the #DARTMission stream live or Didymos it? Impact is over, but the research continues. As scientists delve into data and telescopes release images of the asteroid from their POV, follow @AsteroidWatch and @NASASolarSystem for updates. https://t.co/ZNEYDQVA8Y pic.twitter.com/dn2veS6zbG
— NASA (@NASA) September 27, 2022
In the video, which was assembled from images taken about every second by the Dart spacecraft’s navigation camera, Dimorphos is the smaller gray ovoid seen at the center of the field of view. The larger asteroid seen initially to the lower left of Dimorphos as Didymos, the larger companion of Dimorphos, around which the latter orbits as a moonlet.
First ground-based images of Dart impact
06:09 , Jon Kelvey
The first images of the Dart mission impact of the asteroid Dimorphos are now available thanks to the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System, or Atlas, a project of Nasa and the University of Hawaii.
The Atlas project Twitter account shared a short video Monday night that shows Dimorphos as a bright light moving against a background stars. The Dart spacecraft’s impact can be seen as a sudden brightening of the light followed by a whispy cloud that puffs off of the light, which is likely the material ejected from Dimorphos by the impact.
ATLAS observations of the DART spacecraft impact at Didymos! pic.twitter.com/26IKwB9VSo
— ATLAS Project (@fallingstarIfA) September 27, 2022
The Atlas project automatically scans the night sky looking for small asteroids that have been missed by existing surveys. The project uses four ground-based telescopes, two in Hawaii, one in Chile, and another in South Africa, according to the project website.
Dart mission could protect Earth against killer asteroids
07:00 , Jon Kelvey
Big asteroid impacts are rare, but the geological record shows they do happen.
The Chicxulub impact that wiped out the dinosaurs took place around 66 million years ago when an asteroid about 6 miles in diameter crashed into what is now the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico.
Around 790,000 years ago, a smaller asteroid impact likely wiped out 10% of our human ancestors living in southeast Asia at that time, according to University of North Dakota assistant professor of Space Studies Sherry Fieber-Beyer.
But with the success of the Dart mission impact of the small asteroid Dimorphos on Monday evening, contemporary humans have gone a step further than our ancestors could ever have dreamed. By testing the possibility of diverting the trajectory of an asteroid, Nasa and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory have shown that unlike the dinosaurs, we needn’t be caught unawares and unarmed by asteroid or comet engendered Armageddon.
“DART’s success provides a significant addition to the essential toolbox we must have to protect Earth from a devastating impact by an asteroid,” Nasa’s Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson said in a statement. “This demonstrates we are no longer powerless to prevent this type of natural disaster. Coupled with enhanced capabilities to accelerate finding the remaining hazardous asteroid population by our next Planetary Defense mission, the Near-Earth Object (NEO) Surveyor, a Dart successor could provide what we need to save the day.”
07:42 , Jon Kelvey
While the Atlas project has capture the ejecta flung from the asteroid Dimorphos by the impact of Nasa’s Dart mission, and more images are sure to follow from the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes, as well as the Italian space agency’s Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids, or LiciaCube, we may not know for some time just what become of Dart.
Nasa and Applied Physics Laboratory engineers say that while Dart was traveling fast at 14,400 miles per hour at the time of impact, that won’t be enough to vaporize the spacecraft, and bits and pieces could remain embedded in the crater it made on Dimorphos.
And just how big that crater is will depend on the consistency of Dimorphos. In the close up images Dart beamed just before it struck the asteroid, Dimorphos appeared be a loose pile of rubble. That could have allowed Dart to create a fairly large crater of more than 20 meters in diameter.
We may have to wait a bit for a full answer: The next large space craft to visit Dimorphos up close and personal isn’t scheduled to launch until 2024. That mission, the European Space Agency’s Hera, will visit Dimorphos in 2026.
By the numbers
08:22 , Jon Kelvey
Nasa’s Dart successfully struck the small asteroid Dimorphos at 7.14pm EDT Monday evening, providing a basic proof of the concept of a kinetic impactor mission to divert hazardous asteroids away from the Earth.
The Dart spacecraft weighed about 1,260 pounds.
It’s not clear the mass of Dimorphos, but the asteroid is about 530 feet in diameter, or about the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Dart slammed into Dimorphos asteroid at 14,000 miles per hour. For comparison, a .50 caliber machine gun bullet may travel at around 2,000 miles per hour.
Dart traveled for 10 months to reach Dimorphos, striking the asteroid around 6.8 million miles from Earth.
Dart flew the final 56,000 miles of its journey entirely on its own — controllers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel Maryland were “hands off” for the spacecraft’s final approach, ready to jump in if something went wrong, but otherwise on their feet, watching the live feed of the rapidly growing face of Dimorphos from Dart’s camera like everyone else in the world.
Virtual Telescope Project also captures Dart impact
09:00 , Jon Kelvey
Add to the Atlas Project the Virtual Telescope Project as one of those ground-based astronomy programs that has caught images of the Dart mission impact.
A network of robotic telescopes around the world open to professionals and amateurs alike, the Virtual Telescope Project images might be the first images of the Dart impact shared by non-professionals after the project tweeted an image sequence out on Monday evening.
— Virtual Telescope (@VirtualTelescop) September 27, 2022
SpaceX congratulates Nasa on its success
10:28 , Andrew Griffin
SpaceX has congratulated Nasa on the success of the DART mission.
Congratulations on successfully crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid!
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 26, 2022
(Nasa is a client of SpaceX’s, using its rockets to take astronauts to the International Space Station, among other things.)
When will we know whether DART successfully moved its asteroid?
10:45 , Andrew Griffin
Nasa did crash into the asteroid. But we might not know for absolutely sure how successful it was until 2026, when it will be visited by another spacecraft.
Thankfully, there’s some important times and work to be done in between.
12:30 , Andrew Griffin