This is a new Star Wars sequel, this is real life. A NASA spacecraft on Monday intentionally smashed into an asteroid. It was a significant test to see whether man had the ability to protect the Earth from a potentially catastrophic collision with a space rock.
NASA launched its DART probe, which is short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test. It successfully carried out the first-of-its-kind maneuver on a small and harmless space rock known as Dimorphos. This rock is currently located about 6.8 million miles away from Earth.
The mission cost $325 and it was designed to see whether “nudging” an asteroid can alter its trajectory, It provided scientists with a valuable real-world test of planetary defense technologies.
The DART vessel was about the size of a vending machine and it crashed into the asteroid on Monday at 7:14 p.m. ET. It hit Dimorphos at a speed of 14,000 miles per hour. Now it could take NASA several weeks to see if the collision actually changed the course of the asteroid.
Even a small change to an asteroid’s trajectory — provided it is still far enough — could avert a doomsday impact.
The space rock measures 525 feet wide and orbits a much larger, 2,500-foot asteroid named Didymos. Both of these rocks do not pose a threat to earth at this time, according to NASA.
The DART was launched in November of 2021 and spent 10 months making its way to the asteroid target. There was a satellite deployed as part of the mission that took pictures of the aftermath of the crash. And there will be another launch in 2024 that will study the impact crater with greater detail.
NASA experts are hoping that DART has taken up to 10 minutes off Dimorphos’ orbit around Didymos. That impact will grow over time.
All that is learned in this experiment could eventually save the planet.
IMPACT SUCCESS! Watch from #DARTMIssion’s DRACO Camera, as the vending machine-sized spacecraft successfully collides with asteroid Dimorphos, which is the size of a football stadium and poses no threat to Earth. pic.twitter.com/7bXipPkjWD
— NASA (@NASA) September 26, 2022