Today NASA crashed a spacecraft—deliberately—into an asteroid 7 million miles away in the hopes of knocking it off its course. Its target was Dimorphos, a moonlet that orbits the asteroid Didymos, and as you can see in the video above the impact was a success.
NASA claims the pair of asteroids pose no threat to Earth, so think of it as a practice run for the real deal. You know, just in case landing a crew of hotshot blue-collar deep core oil drillers to blow it up with a nuke (opens in new tab) isn't an option.
As reported by Space.com (opens in new tab), the mission will provide important data so that scientists and engineers can use it for planetary defense in the off-chance a future asteroid is on a collision course with Earth. However, I'm pretty sure Kerbal Space Program already has an elegant way of redirecting asteroids (opens in new tab).
DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) was NASA's vending machine-sized spacecraft charged with the critical mission. Didymos (opens in new tab), which is 780 meters long, orbits the sun, and the smaller Dimorphos orbits Didymos every 11 hours and 55 minutes. The goal was to hit Dimorphus so hard it'd speed up the orbit around its larger twin by ten minutes, proving that the impact altered the path of the rock.
DART hitched a ride on top of the SpaceX Falcon 9 last November and traveled roughly 7 million miles before disembarking on its one-way mission towards the asteroid pair. Onboard is a CubeSat (a tiny satellite) that detached to film the impact from a safe distance, in addition to DART's onboard camera that went dark once it crashed into the asteroid.
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. pic.twitter.com/7bXipPkjWDSeptember 26, 2022
At 170 meters, Dimorphos is considered a "tiny asteroid," said Tom Statler, NASA mission program specialist during a press conference. He also added that "hitting an asteroid is a tough thing to do." I'm sure that's true, but NASA just made it look easy.