- The DRACO camera captured the DART’s journey to impact
- ESA’s Hera mission will inspect Dimorphos’ post-impact orbit
- Planetary defense missions demonstrate the importance of international cooperation
It’s official. NASA’s DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) spacecraft successfully hit its asteroid target and the world witnessed the momentous event.
Shipment control was announced the successful impact at 7.14 p.m. ET Monday. In a video shared by NASA on Twitter, the spacecraft can be seen as it slowly approached the asteroid, with the mission team excitedly awaiting the collision. They came closer and closer until the impact was finally confirmed.
“IMPACT SUCCESS! Watch from #DARTMISsionDRACO camera as the vending machine-sized spacecraft successfully collides with the football-field-sized asteroid Dimorphos and poses no threat to Earth,” the agency wrote.
In another tweet, the agency shared DART’s final moments before impact. “You don’t want to miss anything?” NASA tweeted, referencing a song from the sci-fi movie “Armageddon.”
NASA’s DART mission is the world’s first planetary defense test mission to see if intentionally crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid will divert its orbit. The idea is to see if it is a viable planetary defense option should the threat arise in the future.
Even NASA knows the idea sounds like a movie plot. In a pre-recorded video shared on Twitter, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson called the mission a “giant step in planetary defense” and also referenced the movie “Armageddon.”
“It will be a first test to help us determine our response if we do see an asteroid that’s out there threatening to hit Earth,” he said in the video. “We’ve all seen it in movies like Armageddon, but the real-life stakes are high.”
He also emphasized the importance of such missions and the work of NASA, saying “we only have one home, so we have to take care of it.”
The European Space Agency (ESA), which is set to launch a Hera follow-up mission to inspect the orbit after the Dimorphos impact, congratulated the DART team, calling it a “historic impact”.
“To make contact with a target so small at 11 million kilometers of space is an impressive technical achievement in itself, tonight a great page of space history was written. One that we have all been looking forward to for many years,” Hera mission director, said Ian Carnelli in a press release.
“Then comes a period of prolonged observation by ground-based and space-based telescopes to determine whether the DART impact did indeed achieve what it was intended to do and shift the orbit of Dimorphos’ ‘moon’ around its 780m-diameter parent asteroid Gemini. Carnelli added.
Both NASA’s DART and ESA’s Hera are supported by an international team of scientists. These missions are proof of “what international cooperation can achieve,” ESA said.