NASA’s DART spacecraft successfully collided with an asteroid yesterday to see if a kinetic impact can nudge a threatening asteroid away from a collision with Earth.
The target was Didymos – a twin asteroid system that’s not in any danger of hitting the Earth and is about 6 million miles away. The mission targeted the smaller rock in the Didymos system that is orbiting the larger one. Astronomers and scientists will now observe the orbit of the small rock around the large one to see if any changes, slowdowns, etc. happened as a result of the impact.
DART hit the asteroid at a speed of about 14,000 miles per hour – easily 8 times faster than a rifle shot. The spacecraft weighed approximately 1200 pounds at the time of impact. It also beamed back pictures all the way to its demise:
Check out the detail beamed back from DART right before it impacted the surface:
And this amazing shot from a South African telescope captured the impact from here on Earth (via Twitter):
It’ll be awhile until the full “impact” of the impact will be known. But scientists are pretty confident that they’ll observe enough of a movement to help inform a future deflection mission.