The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) impactor hit its target, the space rock Dimorphos, at 7:14 pm Eastern Time (2314 GMT), 10 months after blasting off from California on its pioneering mission.

Full article, HERE from Science Alert!

I don’t care who you are, you have to be impressed with the fact that DART worked! 7 million miles later, a center mass hit on a 530 foot asteroid is considerably less than one minute of angle (by at least probably five or six decimal points)… And it was on time and on the money!!!

The next question will be did it actually give enough oomph to change the orbit? I don’t think we’re going to have that answer for a while, but we can truly say we are living in the future!!!

Hollywood has talked about it, but now it has actually been done! Kudos to the scientists and engineers that pulled this off!


Score!!! — 17 Comments

  1. Well, it hit the target.
    That’s amazing!
    But don’t we have to wait to see if it actually worked?
    Here’s hoping it did.

  2. Just a thought I had. What if they moved the astroid just enough to alter its orbit around the sun and the gravity of the sun put it on a collision course with earth? Scripture speaks of a mountain being cast into the sea which sounds to me a lot like an astroid coming from outer space. Could we be about to see another Biblical prophesy come to life? Man plays with things that only God should control.

  3. Yet we can’t keep high-tech automatic cars from hitting objects within the confines of a three lane road. Tech is interesting, isn’t it?

    • Speeds, object concentration, and sorting sensor signatures.

      It is possible that automatic driving tech would be better if implemented by people sane enough to want nothing to do with the potential legal liability.

  4. Mr. Silverfiddle needs to be RE-PROGRAMED, as he has gone astray, the Mother Ship and it’s inhabitants are scrambling like the Rats they are.

  5. That is impressive, but how effective would it be with a last minute oh s**t we didn’t see that one until it’s right on top of us? I would be more worried about those with a time frame of weeks, instead of months, of hitting us.

  6. Just because you CAN do a thing, doesn’t mean you SHOULD do that thing.
    Think of what happens when a billiard ball gets hit by another ball. That’s what potentially could happen if we start trying to alter trajectories of asteroids.
    Even if Earth doesn’t get hit, and another planet does, it could still be catastrophic.

  7. I’ve been in a debate with our favorite greek philosopher guy as to the DART mission. He seems to think that this was easy-peasy and boring and doable with 70 year old tech. My contention, as with OldNFO, is that hitting something that small that far away even now is quite difficult (as witnessed by all the almost successes of all the other asteroid/comet/planetary body intersections.

    Totally cool.

  8. Whether it hit “center mass” is exactly the point at issue. They won’t know for some time.

    Hitting an object with another object is a physics problem, one which has been solved many, many times before. Mathematics and physics are funny like that.

    Equipping a payload big enough to carry it with radar homing and thrust to ensure a hit from within a certain targeting envelope is a problem we solved when Eisenhower was president, when last I looked.

    If this was an “achievement”, it’s only one for the Millenial Baby Ducks at NASA. Hughes, Lockheed, and Raytheon solved the problem two generations ago, with vacuum tubes, a historical point beyond dispute.

    1) Could we calculate the position of Dimorphos accurately enough at the time of impact to put a payload within striking distance? Yes, with mathematics from turn-of-the-last-century.

    2) When did we perfect radar homing on moving targets? The 1950s.

    3) When did we perfect vector thrusting in conjunction with #2? The 1960s.

    So we applied tech from 60+ years ago to hitting an inert non-maneuvering target the size of the Epcot Pavilon five times closer than Mars has ever been (which we have sent spacecraft to since the 1960s), and it homed in on the target and hit it.

    Universal Achievement Participation Medal for Not Screwing The Pooch: Unlocked!

    Change my mind.

    NASA’s been crashing into planetary bodies since the last century. All they’ve done is take their expertise at not being able to successfully land on them, and applied it to this experiment.

    Round peg, round hole.

    Elon Musk would have landed a Tesla on it, done self-driving donuts around the bigger rocks. And then set off a IED in the trunk.

    • Calling radar homing on moving targets perfected in in the 1950s ignores potential impact of some more recent advances. Maybe as well as some considerations of the radar problem in these circumstances.

      I don’t know how big this thing was, nor what its closing velocity was.

      Maybe it was slow enough that the radar range would have been easily reachable in the 1950s, with non coherent methods.

      Maybe it was big enough that the antenna size didn’t need to be implemented with any modern tech.

      But, the older style of power amplifiers for radars could have some pretty extreme cooling considerations, and possibly those would be difficult on a space ship with desirable radar operation times?

      Even if the tech is old, if you have any new blood added, or old blood leaving, or any excess pressure from the top, systems engineering that should be routine can wind up massively screwed up.

  9. In the movies it was a nuke bomb that hit the asteroid. I wonder what would happen if NASA had used one on this one? My peabrain working again.

  10. All- Interesting set of comments, and yes, Aesop is actually correct. Old science, made to work by the whiz kids today…

    • Yes, and no on Aesop’s argument.

      I’ve done some reading, and there is no radar.

      Impact speed was predicted to be four miles per second. So, 50 seconds out would be a bit less than 200 miles, and 100 seconds out, a bit less than 400.

      Radars with those ranges can be pretty hefty.

      The thing had maybe 3m to fit a radar antenna aperture into, and was about 600 kg. Getting much use out of a radar targeting sensor might have been a bit difficult.

      Which is why they used a camera. You would /need/ digital camera technology, which is relatively recent. (At least for commercial/open source cameras.)

      Okay, the 1950s radar algorithm could be adapted, and probably the adaptation was probably worked out pretty well a long time ago.

      There is a pretty good chance that lots of people could have done the tracking loop, if they knew what textbooks to buy from AIAA and how to read them, or what papers to get from NASA and how to read them. But, that if can be the difference between an organization that retains technical capabilities and what that does not.

      The camera seems to have been developed special, and the engineering may be worth praise, even if the science is very old.

      The main propulsion engine is also relatively new tech, even if the fundamentals of the physics have been known for some time. (Dover sells a copy of Jahn’s Physics of Electric Propulsion that has an initial copyright dating back to 1968.)

      I’m pretty sure that the DART project would have been SOL on the systems engineering if NASA and JH APL had not retained enough institutional knowledge.

  11. Bob- Good points. And the processing time/power at that speed would be ‘expensive’ in the weight budget.

  12. They might have been able to save a lot when it comes to final approach processing by leaning on the secondary spacecraft, the one the italians made. /If/ they could localize the target pretty well before the final acceleration, then maybe a less rigorous tracking loop would do?

    I dunno.

    My big takeaway is that outside of atmosphere, cameras are much more relatively practical than I had realized. With some ‘space war could be even harder than I had been imagining’.

    I appreciate Aesop for making an argument that inspired some fun reading.