Someday, maybe soon or maybe a million lifetimes from now, planet earth will face a threat from outer space, in the form of an extinction-level asteroid event.
As it stands today, the planet is actually pummeled with loose space rocks all day, every day, but this minute celestial shrapnel is far too small to even make a faint trail in the sky as it burns up in the atmosphere.
But there are some killers out there, and NASA this week deployed the first test of a potential planet-saving technology, and the views it provided were dramatic.
NASA’s DART spacecraft successfully slammed into a distant asteroid at hypersonic speed on Monday in the world’s first test of a planetary defense system, designed to prevent a potential doomsday meteorite collision with Earth.
Humanity’s first attempt to alter the motion of an asteroid or any celestial body played out in a NASA webcast from the mission operations center outside Washington, D.C., 10 months after DART was launched.
The scene was stunning.
The livestream showed images taken by DART’s camera as the cube-shaped “impactor” vehicle, no bigger than a vending machine with two rectangular solar arrays, streaked into the asteroid Dimorphos, about the size of a football stadium, at 7:14 p.m. EDT (2314 GMT) some 6.8 million miles (11 million km) from Earth.
And now, without any further ado, Dimporhos: Up close and personal.
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/7bXipPkjWD
— NASA (@NASA) September 26, 2022