Each time the protagonist saves Earth and its habitants by crushing the enemy – in most cases a giant asteroid – the theatre halls erupt in cheers and applause. But as we return back to the reality from the reel, the main question stays: “What happens when a real asteroid hits Earth?”
On Monday, the NASA spacecraft rammed an asteroid at blistering speed in an unprecedented dress rehearsal for the day a killer rock menaces the planet.
The galactic slam occurred at a harmless asteroid 7 million miles (11.3 million kilometres) away, with the spacecraft named Dart plowing into the space rock at 14,000 mph (22,500 kph).
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Scientists expected the impact to carve out a crater, hurl streams of rocks and dirt into space and, most importantly, alter the asteroid’s orbit.
“We have impact!” Mission Control’s Elena Adams announced, jumping up and down and thrusting her arms skyward. The mission, which cost $325 million, was the first attempt to shift the position of an asteroid or any other natural object in space.
IMPACT SUCCESS! Watch from #DARTMIssion’s DRACO Camera, as the vending machine-sized spacecraft successfully collid… https://t.co/agBXaeEmhi
— NASA (@NASA) 1664234390000
While there’s no footage of the direct contact yet, the impact was immediately obvious in the video shared by NASA. The big step forward by NASA towards the world’s future was applauded by netizens on Twitter.
“A bit underwhelming in that we didn’t get to see a major crash but I understand why. Great job Nasa team,” one person replied to NASA’s tweet.
Tech billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX also praised NASA for ‘successfully crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid’.
@NASA Congratulations on successfully crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid!
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) 1664235014000
Imagine you’re Dimorphos, just hanging around for billions of years, spinning around your big brother, going along… https://t.co/lisVjZB0s3
— Del. Danica Roem (@pwcdanica) 1664245266000
Some also called it an “incredible accomplishment” for all humanity.
Congratulations, @Nasa and a big thumbs up to the entire #DARTMission team. This is an incredible accomplishment fo… https://t.co/MW7YqEluv4
— Anson Mount (@ansonmount) 1664240266000
That. Was wild to watch as it happened. And not sure what to make of it. Need a sec. https://t.co/w6NyOrQLQ6
— Jeffrey Wright (@jfreewright) 1664239575000
Humanity – 1Asteroid – 0 Today was a first for Earth! Congrats #DARTMission team for a successful impact, the fi… https://t.co/tESvLTfcYo
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) 1664238302000
You have to admit, after years of watching sci-fi, hearing the actual term “planetary defense” uttered by @NASA is… https://t.co/RxNgyu9cCx
— Larry Nemecek (@larrynemecek) 1664258543000
NASA’s Monday target was a 525-foot (160-metre) asteroid named Dimorphos. It’s a moonlet of Didymos, Greek for twin, a fast-spinning asteroid five times bigger that flung off the material that formed the junior partner.
The pair have been orbiting the sun for eons without threatening Earth, making them ideal save-the-world test candidates.
Launched last November, the vending machine-size Dart — short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test — navigated to its target using new technology developed by Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, the spacecraft builder and mission manager.