A small camera mounted on DART streamed 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 Laboratory in Applied Physics from Johns Hopkins University. The team cheered as Dimorphos got closer and closer, before the live feed ended on impact with the asteroid.
The strike was “basically a target,” said mission systems engineer Elena Adams. You can watch the live stream for yourself to see the exact moment DART hit Dimorphos. And to give you an idea of scale, last year the collision was described by DART program scientist Tom Statler as a golf cart traveling at 15,000 miles per hour crashing into the side of a stadium of football.
The mission, which was launched in November last year, demonstrates a way to protect humanity from asteroids. Although Dimorphos itself had not come close to crashing into Earth, the project demonstrates NASA’s ability to deflect similar asteroids in the future.
Researchers believe the crash could have shortened Dimorphos’ orbit by about 10 minutes, which is enough to make a significant difference in the path an asteroid takes. 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 the DART impact altered the asteroid’s orbit around a larger asteroid called Didymos.