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NASA successfully crashed a spacecraft into a 520-foot-long asteroid last week, marking a big step forward in the agency’s quest to protect civilization from cataclysmic space rocks, USA Today reported.
The 1,260-pound Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft – or DART for short– collided with the 11-billion-pound asteroid Dimorphos at 14,000 mph about seven million miles from Earth.
DART was launched less than a year ago after scientists decided to test Earth’s planetary defenses in case of a destructive asteroid impact.
NASA scientists picked Dimorphos, an asteroid that orbits a larger one named Didymos. Both space rocks were chosen because they don’t pose any threat to our planet.
The mission’s goal was not to destroy Dimorphos but rather to shift its orbit around Didymos so that it changes both their trajectories.
The space agency won’t know for weeks – or months – what happens after the collision, but researchers said that even a small orbital change of one percent could be enough to spare humanity the same fate as the dinosaurs.
“Our first planetary defense test was a success,” rejoiced mission systems engineer Elena Adams said. “Earthlings should sleep better.”