Watch the moment NASA’s DART spacecraft crashed into an asteroid
NASA celebrates the success of humanity’s first test of a planet defense system: crashing into an orbiting asteroid to alter its orbit. NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft, or DART, was intentionally smashed into the asteroid Dimorphos at 7: 14 p.m. US Eastern time last night, spelling the end to a successful 10-month mission.
A small camera mounted on DART livestreamed the spacecraft’s steady progress toward the 160-meter-wide asteroid, located about 6.8 million miles from Earth, back to controllers based at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. The team cheered as the Dimorphos approached closer and closer to the asteroid, before the livestream stopped on impact.
The strike was “basically an eye-opener,” Elena Adams, mission systems engineer. watch livestream to see exactly when DART struck Dimorphos. And for a sense of scale, last year the collision was described by Tom Statler, DART’s program scientist, as a golf cart traveling at 15,000 miles an hour smashing into the side of a football stadium.
The mission, launched in November 2013, shows humanity a way to protect itself against asteroids. Although Dimorphos was not on course to crash into Earth, NASA’s project shows how NASA can deflect similar asteroids in future.
Researchers believe the crash could have shortened Dimorphos’s orbit by around 10 minutes, which is enough to make a significant difference to the path an asteroid travels. NASA administrator Bill Nelson called the mission an “unprecedented success for planetary defense.”
The next step is to study the asteroid using telescopes on Earth to confirm that DART’s impact altered the its orbit around a larger asteroid called Didymos.
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