Early results from NASA's DART mission
This image is constructed from several images taken on November 30, 2022 by astronomers at Magdalena Ridge Observatory in New Mexico, USA. It holds Didymos still in the frame, and thus the background stars are seen as linear trails of dots. Average images like this can provide additional details to astronomers studying faint structures in the ejecta tail. This image is roughly 32,000 kilometers across the field of view at the distance of Didymos. Credit: Magdalena Ridge Observatory/NM Tech

The investigation team has been looking into the implications of how this planetary defense technique could be used in the future

The recoil from which substantially enhanced DART's push against Dimorphos has been analyzed.

Observations of the evolving ejection have given the investigation team a better idea of what DART accomplished. DART team members gave a preliminary interpretation of their findings at the fall meeting.

"What we can learn from the DART mission is part of a NASA's overarching work to understand asteroids and other small bodies in our solar system," said Tom Statler, the program scientist for DART at NASA headquarters.

It was just the beginning. We use the observations to study what these bodies are made of and how they were formed, as well as how to defend our planet.

Data from the world's first planetary defense technology demonstration is central to this effort. Scientists focused on measuring the transfer of energy from DART's collision with the asteroid in the weeks after the event.

The impact of DART displaced over two million pounds of the dusty rock into space, enough to fill six or seven rail cars. The team is using that data as well as new information on the composition of the asteroid moonlet and the characteristics of the ejected object.

Early results from NASA's DART mission
The last complete image of asteroid moonlet Dimorphos, taken by the DRACO imager on NASA’s DART mission from ~7 miles (12 kilometers) from the asteroid and 2 seconds before impact. The image shows a patch of the asteroid that is 100 feet (31 meters) across. Ecliptic north is toward the bottom of the image. This image is shown as it appears on the DRACO detector and is mirror flipped across the X-axis from reality. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

The initial experiment was a success. Andy Rivkin is co-lead of the DART investigation at the APL. A key way of gaining further insights into the nature of its surface is by studying the ejected Dimorphos.

Observations before and after impact show that Dimorphos and Didymos are both made of the same material, similar to meteorites. The reflected light from the system was dominated by the ejected particles from Dimorphos. The Didymos system has a comet-like tail because of the solar radiation pressure.

If Didymos and Dimorphos have the same densities, the team calculates that the momentum transferred when DART hit Dimorphos was 3.6 times greater than if the asteroid had simply absorbed the spaceship and produced no ejections.

Predicting the size of the impactor and estimating the amount of lead time necessary to move a potentially dangerous asteroid off its path are important to planning a future impact mission.

"Momentum transfer is the most important thing we can measure, because it is information we would need to develop an impactor mission to divert a threating asteroid," said Andy Cheng, DART investigation team lead. It's important to understand how a spacecraft impact will change an asteroid's momentum.

Before or after DART's controlled collision with Dimorphos, there is no danger to Earth.