NASA purposefully crashed a Double Asteroid Rendezvous Test (DART) spacecraft into a small asteroid on Monday night in an effort to understand how to save the Earth from extinction.

The impact with the asteroid Dimorphos, which is around the size of the football stadium, occurred around seven million miles away from Earth. The DART spacecraft was launched nearly a year ago in November 2021 and traveled the distance. It reached a speed of around 14,000 miles per hour at the moment of impact.

“The dinosaurs didn’t have a space program to help them, but we do,” Katherine Calvin, who is NASA’s chief scientist and senior climate advisor, said. “So DART represents important progress in understanding potential hazards in the future and how to protect our planet from potential impacts.”

Images captured just minutes after the collision by a cube satellite that was deployed from and followed the DART spacecraft were released publicly by Argotec Space, which is an Italian company that helped develop the CubeSat.

The collision marked humanity’s first attempt at deflecting an asteroid. Experts say that it could take around two months to understand if DART was successful in adequately shifting Dimorphos’ orbit.

Next, astronomers will look toward launching the European Space Agency’s Hera mission. It will visit Dimorphos and the larger asteroid it orbits, Didymos, in a test slated to launch in 2024.

“The results from DART will prepare us for Hera’s visit to the Didymos binary system to examine the aftermath of this impact a few years from now,” Ian Carnelli, who will serve as the Hera Mission Manager, said in a statement. “Hera will help us understand what happened to Dimorphos, the first celestial body to be measurably moved by humankind.”

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