by Ryan Kang ’25
Published Nov. 25th, 2022
65 million years ago, an asteroid that collided with the Earth wiped out the dinosaurs and nearly all life.
Up until now, we had no technology to defend against such potentially catastrophic asteroids. According to NASA in 2019, there were more than 19,000 near-Earth asteroids, with around 30 more discovered each week.
Simply put, Earth is surrounded by asteroids that could end us humans. If an asteroid was heading directly towards Earth, there would be little we could do to stop it or protect ourselves from it. This is why scientists have started to tinker in deflection technology, technology to deflect asteroids.
The spaceship, DART, was the first spaceship ever launched to incorporate this technology. It was designed to crash into the asteroid Dimorphus. Dimorphus had no real threat to the Earth, and was thus perfect for testing.
The spacecraft was built and launched in the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, where scientists and engineers from across the globe came together to invest in the project. DART was successfully launched on November 24th, 2021 at 1:20 am (EDT).
After around 10 months, DART successfully collided with Dimorphus on September 26th, 2022, at 7:14 pm (EDT). At the time of the collision, DART was moving at around 4.1 miles per second, or around 14,760 miles per hour. Through this impact, scientists aim to change Dimorphus’s orbital speed by around 1%. Though seemingly a small number, this percentage change would mean that Dimorphus will orbit its respective celestial body 10 minutes faster.
For now, the precise impact DART will have on Dimorphus is uncertain, but as scientists observe what happens to the asteroid, they hope to learn more about their new technology and develop it further so that no asteroid will ever hit the earth again.