NASA Administrator Bill Nelson confirmed Tuesday that its Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft successfully redirected the path of an asteroid.
Nelson said before impact, it took the asteroid Dimorphos 11 hours, 55 minutes to orbit its larger companion asteroid Didymos. Telescopes confirmed after the crash that it shortened Dimorphos’ orbit around Didymos by 32 minutes.
Nelson said anything longer than 10 minutes would be considered a “huge success.”
“If an Earth-threatening asteroid was discovered and we see it far enough away, this technique could be used to deflect it,” Nelson said.
In late September, NASA intentionally crashed the DART spacecraft into Dimorphos. It was part of a test to see if scientists can alter the path of Dimorphos, which is the smaller companion asteroid of Didymos.
The impact was later seen on telescopes displaying a long trail of dust and debris days later.
Dimorphos is only about 500 feet wide while Didymos is a half-mile wide.
The asteroid system has an elliptical orbit around the solar system. The asteroids pose no threat to Earth.
The asteroid’s surface is believed to be extremely rough and full of boulders. It does not have a known atmosphere.