NASA Spacecraft Successfully Hits Asteroid in Earth Defense Test (UPDATE)

NASA successfully sent a spacecraft on a mission to collide with an asteroid, looking to learn if it’s a measure that can be taken in the future to save Earth.

Photograph of NASA spacecraft launch
Getty

Image via Getty/Bill Ingalls/NASA

Photograph of NASA spacecraft launch

UPDATED 9/26, 9 p.m. ET: NASA shared video of the successful impact on Monday evening.

“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,” reads a tweet from the official account.

See footage below, and find more—including a post-impact news briefing—on NASA’s YouTube channel.

See original story below.

NASA is on a new mission to test whether using a spacecraft to deflect an asteroid really works.

NBC News reports that this is the first time NASA has run an assessment like this—and is doing so to see if it can safeguard the planet from getting hit by a disastrous space rock in the future, if the need ever arises.

The space agency has named the mission DART—or the Double Asteroid Redirection Test. The asteroid that the spacecraft is poised to hit is one that isn’t harmful to earth.

“The thing that makes this natural disaster different is that if we do our homework, we can actually prevent it,” Bruce Betts, chief scientist at the nonprofit, Planetary Society told NBC. “That’s a huge difference compared to a lot of other large-scale natural disasters.”

The space rock in question is Dimorphus, “which measures 525 feet across and orbits a much larger, 2,500-foot-wide asteroid named Didymos,” NBC explains. The DART probe—which is comparable to a small car—will collide into Dimorphus at around 15,000 mph or 4 miles per second, with the goal of changing the rock’s orbit. Even being able to slightly alter its orbit could mean saving Earth.

While the spacecraft will be destroyed in the process, something called a cubesat will be positioned to collect data of the collision’s outcome. Telescopes on the ground will also conclude whether or not the experiment was successful. In 2024, the European Sapce Agency will launch its mission to study the DART probe’s impact on the asteroid.

“If it misses, it still provides a lot of data,” Andrea Riley, a program executive in NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, said in a statement. “This is why we test. We want to do it now rather than when there is an actual need.”

According to NASA, it hasn’t found a space rock bigger than 450 across that will crash into Earth in the next 100 years—however, the agency said it hasn’t yet identified all of the asteroids floating in space.

The DART launch will take place on Monday at 7:14 p.m. ET. Fans can watch live coverage of the event on NASA TV, starting at 6 p.m. ET.

Latest in Life