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NASA strikes asteroid with spacecraft in historic planetary protection mission

NASA on Monday successfully struck a tiny asteroid more than 7 million miles from Earth with a 1,000-pound spacecraft, completing the world’s first planetary defense mission.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft slammed into the asteroid Dimorphos at roughly 7:14 p.m. ET at a speed of more than 14,000 miles per hour.

It’s the first time humanity has ever purposefully struck an object in space. NASA and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory officials who have been working on the DART mission for years erupted into applause as soon as the spacecraft collided with Dimorphos.

DART first launched into space in November, so the mission’s success completes a 10-month flight toward Dimorphos.

Dimorphos is part of the binary asteroid system Didymos, which means twin in Greek. In its system, Dimorphos orbits the larger asteroid Didymos.

While neither Dimorphos nor Didymos posed a threat to Earth, the DART mission serves as a key test of deflecting a future asteroid or space object that could threaten the planet.

NASA is holding a press conference at 8 p.m. to discuss DART’s impact with Dimorphos and the analysis of the event with ground telescopes.

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