How a space station in Canberra played a vital role in NASA’s DART asteroid mission

As the world watched NASA complete the world’s first full planetary defense test, few knew the crucial role played by a team on the outskirts of Australia’s national capital.

Operated by the national science agency CSIRO, the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC) has been NASA’s eyes and ears in the final phase of its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission.

Located southwest of Canberra in the bushland of Tidbinbilla, the CDSCC has measured the spacecraft’s data transmissions since its launch in November 2021 to Tuesday.

DART’s mission was designed to find out if an asteroid was on a collision course with Earth, could it be stopped by changing its speed and trajectory?

This morning, the spacecraft successfully collided with Dimorphos, a moon that orbits a larger asteroid, Didymos.

It is not yet known whether the test was successful in changing the orbit of Dimorphos, with telescopes following to verify whether the test achieved the expected orbital shift of 1 percent.

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