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The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART): One Year After Impact

Presentation #206.04 in the session Plenary Lectures: Prizes & Planetary Defense: DART & LICIACube (Plenary Lecture)

Published onOct 23, 2023
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART): One Year After Impact

NASA’s DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) successfully impacted Dimorphos, the secondary of the near-Earth binary asteroid (65803) Didymos, on 26 September 2022 at 23:14 UTC. The primary objective of the mission was to change the orbital period of Dimorphos around Didymos to demonstrate asteroid deflection in the first test of a kinetic impactor for planetary defense. DART targeted the secondary asteroid in an eclipsing binary system since the mission could use a single impacting spacecraft and measure the change in the secondary’s orbit via ground-based observations. The spacecraft collided head-on into the leading hemisphere of Dimorphos, resulting in a reduction in the semi-major axis of the Dimorphos orbit and a shorter orbital period. The magnitude of the orbital period change (–33 ± 1 minutes) demonstrates that the ejecta from the impact contributed 2 to 5 times more momentum to the deflection than what the spacecraft itself was carrying. The aftermath of the impact was observed with a wide range of ground- and space-based telescopes, as well as the Italian Space Agency’s LICIACube CubeSat, enabling in-depth investigations of the evolution of the ejecta. We will highlight several of the key results from the DART mission and the measurements that will be performed by the upcoming European Space Agency’s Hera mission. For DART to serve as a successful test of the kinetic impactor technique for planetary defense, we needed to demonstrate that an asteroid could be targeted during a high-speed encounter and that the target’s orbit could be changed. DART has successfully done both.

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