Press Release

NASA’s DART Data Validates Kinetic Impact as Planetary Defense Method

This video shows images acquired by the Hubble Space Telescope starting at 1.3 hours before DART’s impact to 18.5 days after impact.

Credit: NASA/European Space Agency/Space Telescope Science Institute/Hubble Space Telescope

Since NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) successfully impacted its target over five months ago, on Sept. 26 — altering the orbit of the asteroid moonlet Dimorphos by a whopping 33 minutes — the DART team has been hard at work analyzing the data collected from the world’s first planetary defense test mission.

The DART mission employed an asteroid-deflection technique known as a “kinetic impactor,” which in simplest terms means smashing a thing into another thing — in this case, a spacecraft into an asteroid. From the data, the DART investigation team, led by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, found that a kinetic impactor mission like DART can be effective in altering the trajectory of an asteroid, a big step toward the goal of preventing future asteroid strikes on Earth. These findings were published in four papers in the journal Nature.

“I cheered when DART slammed head on into the asteroid for the world’s first planetary defense technology demonstration, and that was just the start,” said Nicola Fox, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “These findings add to our fundamental understanding of asteroids and build a foundation for how humanity can defend Earth from a potentially hazardous asteroid by altering its course.”