HOUSTON - The $313 million mission, called DART, answered a very important question. Can NASA stop an asteroid headed for Earth? It appears so.
DART stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test. The unmanned robotic spacecraft set course on November 24, 2021.
On Monday night, it came to a successful end.
"It's not likely that Earth is going to be hit in your lifetime or mine or the kids who are watching," said Dr. Carolyn Sumners, Vice President of Astrology and Physics at the Houston Museum of National Science.
But at some point, a heavy object like an asteroid could fall from the sky.
That terrifying thought becomes more real with scientists scanning the sky a lot more actively and accurately,
"We've done enough to be pretty certain any big thing will be seen pretty far before we actually get hit by it," Sumner said. "But what we haven't done, is this DART research of, OK it's coming now what do we do."
Dimorphos is a coliseum sized asteroid moonlet that was hit by the DART Spacecraft, which is a SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket that's the size of a school bus.
"We've got to know how to move it, and we have no experience doing this," said Sumner. "We've landed on a lot of places, but we've never tried to push anything."
The collision, which took place about seven million miles from Earth, was a success.
The impact destroyed the DART spacecraft, which was expected.
Now, telescopes will be used to figure out how the collision changed the asteroid's orbit.