NASA hit an asteroid with a rocket. Why? 

By: Brogan Frey

On Monday, September 26th, 2022, at 6:14 pm Central Standard Time, a rocket launched by NASA on November 24th, 2021, made impact with an asteroid named Dimorphos. NASA has been planning this mission for years. 

The first thing NASA wants everyone to know is that this asteroid was no threat to earth, and it has not become one after this mission. This was a test to see if we can, in fact, redirect an asteroid by crashing into it, in preparation for a possible doomsday situation, like ones seen in movies like ‘Armageddon’ and ‘Don’t Look Up.’ There is no threat to earth from any asteroid at the moment. 

This mission was conducted by the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), a NASA department. The mission was nicknamed “DART,” which stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, and was one of the first for the PDCO. 

When the rocket was just 19 minutes away from impact, scientists could finally see the moonlet Dimorphos for the first time. A moonlet is an object that has enough gravity to affect the dust and ice around them, but isn’t large enough to be classified as a moon. 

It will take a few weeks for NASA to tell if this mission actually had an impact on the direction of the asteroid, because this asteroid is over 7 million miles away, and it has a large orbit, so it will take a bit of time to notice any differences in the orbit. 

Before the crash, Dimorphos took about 11 hours and 55 minutes to complete one orbit, and this is expected to go down just a little bit. Even though we don’t know yet how much this affected the asteroid’s orbit, scientists are expecting the crash to shorten the asteroid’s orbital period by about 10 minutes. 

The asteroid weighs about 1.1 billion pounds, compared to the rocket’s 1200. It may seem too small to have any impact, and it sure does seem that way. Says NASA’s Elena Adams, “It’s basically like throwing a tennis ball at a 747 (airplane). If it goes fast enough, you’re gonna move it.” And this rocket certainly moved fast. It was going about 14,000 mph before crashing into the asteroid.

Overall, I think NASA is smart for testing this because there may be a day where we need to crash a rocket into an asteroid to stop what could be a catastrophic disaster. Because, although asteroids don’t crash into the earth every day, it has happened before, and being prepared is always ideal. 

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