NASA Mission Threw Two Million Pounds Rock Into Space

17 December, 2022 | Pranay Lad

nasa Science & Technology

According to the space agency, more than 2 million pounds (1 million kilos) of asteroid rocks and dust have been thrown into space.

The orbit of an asteroid was successfully diverted by a NASA spacecraft on September 26 from a distance of seven million miles, passing a historic test of humankind’s ability to prevent a celestial object from killing life on Earth. At 7:14 p.m. Eastern Time, ten months after blasting out from California on its groundbreaking mission, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) impactor successfully impacted its target, the space asteroid Dimorphos (2314 GMT).

According to the space agency, more than 2 million pounds (1 million kilos) of asteroid rocks and dust have already been expelled into space. According to specialists, there was enough material to fill six to seven train cars.

“The team is using that data, as well as new information on the composition of the asteroid moonlet and the characteristics of the ejecta gained from telescope observations and images from DART’s ride-along Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids (LICIACube) contributed by the Italian Space Agency,” NASA said in a press release.

Although neither Dimorphos nor the bigger asteroid it orbits, Didymos, pose a threat to Earth, the mission proved excellent for target practise.

The momentum transferred when DART collided with Dimorphos was roughly 3.6 times greater than if the asteroid had simply absorbed the spacecraft and produced no ejecta (the many tonnes of asteroidal rock displaced and launched into space by the impact), indicating that the ejecta contributed more to moving the asteroid than the spacecraft. This is supposing that Didymos and Dimorphos have the same density.

DART, which was launched in November 2021 by a SpaceX rocket, was primarily flown by NASA flight directors until the last hours of the journey when autonomous on-board navigation software took over.