As the sun was beginning to set on the east coast of the United States on Monday night, something incredible was happening some 6.8 million miles away, in the depths of outer space.
A NASA spacecraft traveling at 14,000 miles per hour, (that was launch in November of 2021), crashed into an asteroid known as Dimorphos, hopefully pushing the football stadium-sized space rock out of its intended path.
No, Dimorphos wasn’t on a collision course with earth, (at least not that we know of). This was merely a test of our planet’s most high tech planetary defense system to date.
NASA’s DART spacecraft successfully slammed into a distant asteroid at hypersonic speed on Monday in the world’s first test of a planetary defense system, designed to prevent a potential doomsday meteorite collision with Earth.
Humanity’s first attempt to alter the motion of an asteroid or any celestial body played out in a NASA webcast from the mission operations center outside Washington, D.C., 10 months after DART was launched.Trending:
The livestream showed images taken by DART’s camera as the cube-shaped “impactor” vehicle, no bigger than a vending machine with two rectangular solar arrays, streaked into the asteroid Dimorphos, about the size of a football stadium, at 7:14 p.m. EDT (2314 GMT) some 6.8 million miles (11 million km) from Earth.
Did it work? We just don’t know yet.
Whether the experiment succeeded beyond accomplishing its intended impact will not be known until further ground-based telescope observations of the asteroid next month. But NASA officials hailed the immediate outcome of Monday’s test, saying the spacecraft achieved its purpose.
The craft was equipped with a camera that beamed down images of DART’s kamikaze crash.
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
The impact could also be seen from earth via highly powerful telescopes.
The amazing view of NASA DART spacecraft impacting on the asteroid moonlet Dimorphos captured by the ATLAS telescope in South Africa
— Massimo (@Rainmaker1973) September 27, 2022
If successful, the program could be used in the future to deflect dangerous, earth-bound objects before they have a chance to flatten a city…or worse.