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NASA’s planetary defense mission was a smashing success, the Associated Press reported.
The agency’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft was able to divert the orbit of the 525-foot-long Dimorphos asteroid after crashing against the space rock last month.
The DART mission is part of NASA’s efforts to protect Earth from world-ending asteroids or comets. Planetary defense scientists suggested that it would be safer to shift the orbits of these celestial bodies, instead of bombing them, which can result in smaller space rock debris hitting our world.
The space agency selected Dimorphos, which orbits around its parent asteroid, Didymos. Neither of them poses a threat to Earth.
Last year, NASA launched the vending machine-sized DART, which later slammed into Dimorphos at a speed of 14,000 miles per hour on Sept. 26. The impact left a crater in the asteroid and created a comet-like trail of dust and rubble stretching thousands of miles.
Scientists closely observed how the crash impacted Dimorphos and the results exceeded their expectations. Before the impact, the smaller asteroid circled its parent for 11 hours and 55 minutes. Researchers expected the hit to shorten the asteroid’s orbit by 10 minutes, but they found that the impact reduced it by 32 minutes.
They added that the smash also left Dimorphos wobbling a bit and its orbit will never go back to its original location.
“This mission shows that NASA is trying to be ready for whatever the universe throws at us,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.