Traveling at 14,000 miles per hour, a NASA spacecraft slammed into an asteroid on Monday evening. But the crash was intentional: NASA meant to alter the flying rock’s trajectory in space.
The asteroid poses no danger to Earth, but researchers wanted to test whether this approach is feasible in case of a future threat of impact.
The agency’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft, or DART, hit the asteroid Dimorphos at 7:14 p.m. Eastern time. At the time of the collision, Dimorphos was about 6.8 million miles from Earth.
NASA scientists cheered as images were sent back to the ground from the spacecraft, showing in increments its approach and impact with Dimorphos.
Representative Don Beyer from Virginia, who chairs the House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, tweeted that the mission was “a historic success… and a very important step forward for planetary defense.”
The DART spacecraft has been hurtling toward its target since November 24, 2021, when it began its 10-month mission to Dimorphos. The asteroid is about 500 feet in diameter. In comparison, the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs was 6.2 miles wide.