Research by the Politecnico protagonist of the launch of the DART impactor

In Nature three articles describe the first results of the DART mission led by NASA with our University as scientific partner

Divert the trajectory of an asteroid on a collision course with the Earth by means of a controlled impact at full speed with a space probe. This was the challenge of the DART mission (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) by NASA, successfully completed on 26th September 2022, in which the Politecnico was directly involved as part of the scientific team.

The first scientific results on the DART Mission have been published in the journal Nature in three different articles, co-authored by the researcher Fabio Ferrari from the Department of Aerospace Science and Technology at the Politecnico. 

The article ‘Successful Kinetic Impact into an Asteroid for Planetary Defense’ describes the successful test of kinetic impact technology on the asteroid Dimorphos, demonstrating that it is an effective technique for planetary defence against possible asteroid threats.  

The study ‘Ejecta from the DART-produced active asteroid Dimorphos’ describes the observations made using the Hubble Space Telescope on the material ejected by the impact of DART with the asteroid Dimorphos.

Finally, the effectiveness of the kinetic impact of a satellite in avoiding a potential collision with the Earth is demonstrated in ‘Momentum Transfer from the DART mission Kinetic Impact on Asteroid Dimorphos’ co-authored by the professor of Flight Mechanics at the Politecnico, Michèle Lavagna.

DART is a historic moment for space exploration: it is not only the first planetary defence test, but it is also the first time we visit a binary asteroid (a system where two asteroids orbit around a common centre of gravity) and where we have the opportunity to observe how an asteroid can react to an external stress. This has allowed us – and will allow us again in the coming months – to study the structure and evolutionary history of these celestial bodies, so close to us but still barely known.

explains Fabio Ferrari.

To learn more
- Daly, R.T., Ernst, C.M., Barnouin, O.S. et al. Successful Kinetic Impact into an Asteroid for Planetary Defense. Nature (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-05810-5 
- Li, JY., Hirabayashi, M., Farnham, T.L. et al. Ejecta from the DART-produced active asteroid Dimorphos. Nature (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-05811-4 
- Cheng, A.F., Agrusa, H.F., Barbee, B.W. et al. Momentum Transfer from the DART Mission Kinetic Impact on Asteroid Dimorphos. Nature (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-05878-z 

Space @polimi