After 10 months of flying in space, NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) -- the world's first planetary defence technology demonstration -- successfully impacted its asteroid target, the agency's first attempt to move an asteroid in space.
Mission control at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, announced the successful impact at 7.14 p.m. EDT on Monday.
"At its core, DART represents an unprecedented success for planetary defence, but it is also a mission of unity with a real benefit for all humanity," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, said in a statement.
"As NASA studies the cosmos and our home planet, we are also working to protect that home, and this international collaboration turned science fiction into science fact, demonstrating one way to protect Earth," Nelson added.
As a part of NASA's overall planetary defence strategy, DART's impact with the asteroid Dimorphos demonstrates a viable mitigation technique for protecting the planet from an Earth-bound asteroid or comet.
DART targeted the asteroid moonlet Dimorphos, a small body just 530 feet (160 meters) in diameter. It orbits a larger, 2,560-foot (780-meter) asteroid called Didymos. Neither asteroid poses a threat to Earth.
The mission's one-way trip confirmed NASA can successfully navigate a spacecraft to intentionally collide with an asteroid to deflect it, a technique known as kinetic impact.
The investigation team will now observe Dimorphos using ground-based telescopes to confirm that DART's impact altered the asteroid's orbit around Didymos.
Researchers expect the impact to shorten Dimorphos' orbit by about 1 per cent, or roughly 10 minutes; precisely measuring how much the asteroid was deflected is one of the primary purposes of the full-scale test.
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