LANL scientists celebrate success of NASA’s ‘DART’ mission

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LOS ALAMOS, N.M. – NASA can already celebrate the success of the “DART” mission, where they used a small spacecraft to hit an asteroid and throw it off course.

Los Alamos National Lab scientists also played a role in the mission that could one day save the planet.

“Our job was to model how that impact would happen, model what the crater would like,” said Wendy Caldwell, LANL scientist. 

Caldwell talked with KOB 4 about her involvement with the project, which NASA is calling a major success. Video showed the moment of impact when NASA’s “DART” spacecraft slammed into an asteroid 7-million-miles away, pushing the asteroid off course.

“This is a watershed moment for planetary defense and a watershed moment for humanity,” said Bill Nelson, NASA administrator. 

“For the first time ever, humanity has changed the orbit of a planetary body,” said Lori Glaze, NASA planetary science director. 

Nose-camera video shows the impact from the DART spacecraft’s point of view.

The experiment showed pushing an asteroid off course is possible, just in case we need to deflect asteroids away from Earth in the future – and there’s a good chance we’d have enough warning.

“NASA and other space agencies can have decades of warning time and track these things reliably for 100 plus years,” said Nancy Chabot with Johns Hopkins University. 

Success – thanks to teams of scientists at places like NASA and Los Alamos National Lab.

“It’s very exciting to get to use these tools because there are only a handful of places on the planet where you have these computational resources, and we’re one of them,” said Caldwell.