In what they are hailing as a triumph beyond expectations, NASA successfully launched a spacecraft 56,000 miles from Earth to crash into the center of an asteroid.
Breaking: NASA successfully crashes spacecraft into asteroid at 14,000 mph changing it’s trajectory in ‘historic planetary defense test’: this gives us more knowledge on protecting our planet from incoming dangerous astroids pic.twitter.com/2zhSNOLxeX
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The spacecraft, known as the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), had been flying in space since Nov. 2021. The successful mission was announced at 7:14 p.m. EDT on Monday from the mission control center at the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.
A video combining the final images taken aboard DART shows the moment of impact.
The spacecraft collided with Dimorphos, an asteroid only 530 feet in diameter, in hopes of redirecting its course. NASA officials hope this can prepare the world for the possibility of approaching asteroids in the future.
“At its core, DART represents an unprecedented success for planetary defense, but it is also a mission of unity with a real benefit for all humanity,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “As NASA studies the cosmos and our home planet, we’re also working to protect that home, and this international collaboration turned science fiction into science fact, demonstrating one way to protect Earth.”
A team of researchers around the world will now monitor the asteroid to determine precisely how successful DART was in redirecting its course.
Then, in approximately four years, the European Space Agency will conduct a detailed study of the asteroid to measure the crater imprint from the DART collision.
“DART’s success provides a significant addition to the essential toolbox we must have to protect Earth from a devastating impact by an asteroid,” said NASA Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson. “This demonstrates we are no longer powerless to prevent this type of natural disaster.”
“Coupled with enhanced capabilities to accelerate finding the remaining hazardous asteroid population by our next Planetary Defense mission, the Near-Earth Object (NEO) Surveyor, a DART successor could provide what we need to save the day,” Johnson added.