NASA to give DART mission update today

After about 15 days since DART deliberately crashed into an asteroid, NASA is now gearing up to hold a press conference to brief the public on the mission and its success in redirecting.

Post-event update: During NASA’s media event today, the space agency confirmed the DART mission impact did indeed change the target asteroid’s motion in space. The DART mission spacecraft struck Dimorphos at about 14,000 miles (22,530 kilometers) per hour and has since altered the asteroid’s orbit around Didymos by 32 minutes, shortening the 11-hour and 55-minute orbit to 11 hours and 23 minutes.

Last week, NASA announced that it will brief the public Tuesday to discuss its DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission that successfully collided with Dimorphos on September 26.

Notability, NASA will reveal how effectively the collision was redirecting the binary asteroid system. It’s been long enough since the impact that we should have adequate data to determine a change in orbit. We’ll also likely hear more about the data that NASA has collected from the impact test and how it plans to put it to use in the future.

Ultimately for NASA, it comes down to whether a high-velocity kinetic impact still stands as a viable method of asteroid redirection.

The media briefing is scheduled for 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday, October 11. You can watch the event live on NASA TV or the agency’s website.

DART mission spacecraft colliding with Dimorphos.

According to NASA, the event participants include leaders from NASA, the ISA (Italian Space Agency), and the DART mission team. It wouldn’t be surprising to see NASA’s administrator Bill Nelson in attendance, and maybe even US Vice President Kamala Harris, given the significance of the mission as she chairs the National Space Council.

What is DART?

If you’ve been out of the news lately, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, was “the first-ever mission dedicated to investigating and demonstrating one method of asteroid deflection by changing an asteroid’s motion in space through kinetic impact,” states NASA.

Illustration of how DART’s impact will alter the orbit of Dimorphos along with Didymos.
Credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

The DART mission launched in November last year and took about ten months to catch up and collide with its target. A moonlet called Dimorphos of the non-Earth threatening asteroid Didymos located approximately 6.8 million miles from Earth.

On September 26, DART flew directly into Dimorphos at 15,000 miles per hour (24,000 kph) in an attempt to change its orbit within the Didymos binary asteroid system.

But why not send the spacecraft hurtling toward the large asteroid itself? Well, a few reasons.

Scientists predict that by crashing into the smaller moonlet orbiting the larger asteroid Didymos, they can more significantly change its orbit through the gravitational pull that the moonlet has. The slightest change in the moonlet’s orbiting motion can offset the Didymos’ path.

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