The crash of a spacecraft is, for once, cause for celebration. Tuesday’s Dart (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission was the first-ever human attempt to move an asteroid into space.
Scientists in NASA And Johns Hopkins University clapped and hugged each other Tuesday after a vending machine-sized dart successfully crashed into Demorphos, an asteroid the size of a football field that poses no danger to Earth.
Online viewers and astronomy enthusiasts had a field day, too. A Twitter user created an account with the username “DART the asteroid slayer”, and chirp: “I’m about to destroy this asteroid’s entire life.” And later: “This is for the dinosaur.”
There were many other jokes about revenge on dinosaurs:
Others downplayed the spacecraft’s self-destruction:
“No, this is not a movie plot,” said Bill Nelson, Administrator of NASA. Twitter Monday, acknowledging the mission’s fictional prequel as a metaphor from science fiction films. Instead of exploding the Dimorphos, the agency’s goal was for the collision to cause it to deflect—a technique known as kinetic effect.
The researchers now want to confirm that the collision altered the asteroid’s orbit. NASA expects that Demorphos’ orbit around a larger asteroid — Didymos, which has a diameter of 780 meters — has shortened by about 1%, or roughly 10 minutes.
The successful demonstration of planetary defense was visible from Earth, including from the South African Astronomical Observatory and ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial Collision Last Alert System) in Hawaii.
The Dart was launched last November and has spent the past 10 months flying in space.
Peter CalmusNASA climate scientist, pointed out “It would be great if NASA was testing the ability to deflect the path of an asteroid or comet if necessary,” but unlike in Don’t Look Up, “the actual, clear and present danger to humanity is of course Earth collapse from burning fossil fuels.”