The innocuous asteroid was struck by the spacecraft Dart at a distance of 7 million miles (11.3 million kilometers), traveling at 14,000 mph (22,500 kph). Scientists anticipated that the collision would modify the asteroid’s orbit, create a crater, and send streams of boulders and debris into space.
“We are influential!” Elena Adams made an announcement while bouncing about and raising her arms in the air.
In order to see the spectacle, telescopes on Earth and in space pointed at the same spot in the sky. The impact was evident right away since Though the impact was immediately obvious Dart’s radio signal abruptly ceased it will take as long as a couple of months to determine how much the asteroid’s path was changed.
The $325 million mission was the first attempt to shift the position of an asteroid or any other natural object in space.
Dart’s on-board camera, a key part of this smart navigation system, caught sight of Dimorphos barely an hour before impact. “Woo hoo!” exclaimed Adams, a mission systems engineer at Johns Hopkins.
With an image beaming back to Earth every second, Adams and other ground controllers in Laurel, Maryland, watched with growing excitement as Dimorphos loomed larger and larger in the field of view alongside its bigger companion. Within minutes, Dimorphos was alone in the pictures; it looked like a giant gray lemon, but with boulders and rubble on the surface. The last image froze on the screen as the radio transmission ended.
Flight controllers cheered, hugged one another and exchanged high fives. Their mission complete, the Dart team went straight into celebration mode. There was little sorrow over the spacecraft’s demise.