It was like an idea from a Hollywood blockbuster, but the lead actor was a spacecraft not much bigger than a fridge, and the moment of impact might not have the production qualities you’d expect from Stephen Spielberg.
Still, millions tuned in to watch NASA successfully crash a “vending machine-sized spacecraft” into an asteroid – one named Dimorphos, which was the size of a football stadium, and which, the state agency were quick to reassure us all ‘poses no threat to Earth’.
NASA said that the small spacecraft, dubbed DART or Double Asteroid Redirection Test, which weighed just 1,260 pounds, collided with the 520-foot asteroid at a speed of about 14,000 miles per hour.
The impact happened some 7 million miles from Earth, and the mission cost was €325 million. The objective was to see if it was possible for a spacecraft from Earth to knock an asteroid off course – possibly teaching us how to protect our own planet.
DART had launched a camera and a “shoebox-size companion, LICIACube” more than a week ago to photograph the mission.
“There was a lot of innovation and creativity that went into this mission, and I believe it’s going to teach us how one day to protect our own planet from an incoming asteroid,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “We are showing that planetary defense is a global endeavor, and it is very possible to save our 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
Changing an asteroid’s orbit by just 1% could be enough if a destructive one were headed towards Earth, NASA says
The Atlas project, a collaboration between NASA and University of Hawaii to patrol the sky every night in search of incoming asteroids, caught this amazing footage of the collision.
ATLAS observations of the DART spacecraft impact at Didymos! pic.twitter.com/26IKwB9VSo
— ATLAS Project (@fallingstarIfA) September 27, 2022