Hardware News NASA admits it made a mistake by deflecting the asteroid Dimorphos with the Dart mission
Published on 28/10/2022 at 09:20
The Dart mission to deflect an asteroid is a success, even though mistakes were made. Fortunately without consequence, this made it possible to acquire new scientific information essential for the future of space exploration.
The Dart mission is a NASA project that launched a probe in the direction of an asteroid to divert it from its trajectory. This one was not heading towards Earth, but allows testing in the event of a situation similar to the film Armageddon. Luckily it was only a test, as mistakes were made luckily the end result is positive, but if the trajectory had to be changed precisely, the mission would have been a failure.
Indeed, the estimates gave a change of 73 seconds after impact. In reality, the probe propelled the asteroid 32 minutes apart. That is a change 25 times greater. The NASA science director was still pleased with the finality: “This result is an important step towards understanding the full effect of the impact of DART with its target asteroid.”
The long-term goal is to be able to “help protect Earth from colliding with an asteroid if we ever discover one heading our way. ”
An ongoing investigation to understand NASA’s errors
The final results are not yet there, but an analysis is currently underway to determine the reasons for this such difference. The main factor underlined is the lack of knowledge about this asteroid. Scientists greatly overestimated the real size of the object. In reality, it is surrounded by a lot of dust, which fooled the astrophysicists.
On the other hand, this collision made it possible to collect a lot of essential information for the future. Above all, the European Space Agency will launch a research project in four years to understand this asteroid, as well as its big brother. The aim will be in particular to analyze the crater left by the terrestrial probe which crashed. This time we should get a measurement of the mass of the object. This data will allow us to better understand the future tests that will take place.
As a reminder, it is a real feat to have launched at 22,530 km/h an object from Earth to precisely crash into a moving asteroid him too. The name of the Dart mission, meaning arrow in English, is obviously very well chosen. In the end, this error in the analysis and estimation of the mass and the components of the asteroid only gave new information. The end result is positive and will allow us to move forward in the future, to anticipate and be more precise in the calculations.
We can still admire what scientists have been able to do. This is nothing more or less than a real-life movie script. Except that fortunately for us, this asteroid was not dangerous and was not heading towards Earth.