Speed Reads

planet protectors

NASA says its DART mission successfully changed asteroid's orbit

NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft that crashed into a 560-foot-wide asteroid last month was able to change the space rock's orbit, the agency confirmed on Tuesday.

DART hit the asteroid, known as Dimorphos, at 14,000 miles per hour, and over the last several weeks, NASA officials have been looking at the data and images collected before, during, and after impact. This was the first real-life test of technology that could protect the Earth from asteroids with the potential of harming the planet; Dimorphos, which orbits a larger asteroid named Didymos, never posed a threat to the Earth.

Before DART hit Dimorphos, it took the asteroid 11 hours and 55 minutes to circle Didymos; NASA officials have used ground-based telescopes to determine the crash shortened Dimorphos' orbit by 32 minutes, to 11 hours and 23 minutes, NBC News reports. Now that the agency knows that "nudging" an asteroid can change its orbit, "NASA has proven we are serious as a defender of the planet," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement, adding that the mission was "a watershed moment for planetary defense and all of humanity."