NASA Successfully Crashes Its DART Probe Into Asteroid Dimorphos. The 1,200-pound, $325 million spaceship moved a little bit closer to its objective. The asteroid grew bigger, first turning into a point of light and then a rough sphere. It eventually surrounded the screen. The DART cameras turned red at 4:14 PM. A team member’s voice crackled across the intercom at mission control, signaling a signal loss.
The asteroid had been struck by the probe as it was traveling at about 14,000 mph. DART is currently resting in a small grave on asteroid Dimorphos’ surface. That is precisely what NASA planned to do. Congratulations and applause could be heard throughout the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory’s control room in Maryland.
“We’ve worked on this mission for at least seven years now,” said Elena Adams, the DART system engineer at JHUAPL, continuing “to see it so beautifully concluded today was just an incredible feeling — and also, incredibly tiring.”
DART was destined to fail, unlike the other robots in NASA’s series of deep space missions. It’s the first trial of a planetary defense device that, in the future, might strike an errant asteroid or comet to deflect it and shield Earth from harm. On a precisely calculated collision trajectory with the asteroid pair Didymos and Dimorphos, DART was launched in November 2021. The Johns Hopkins crew who created, constructed and oversaw the vehicle had no control over the vessel’s direction, which was set by artificial intelligence.
Looking further into the future, 2024 will bring another visitor to the duo of asteroids. The Hera satellite from the European Space Agency will approach the pair of asteroids and survey the damage.
A new era for humanity is beginning. A day when we may be able to defend ourselves against a potentially disastrous asteroid impact, “said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division.