NASA tried to move a space mountain while most people were eating dinner.

The small craft, the size of a vending machine, self-destructed after colliding with an asteroid. The time is Monday. The crash was part of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test.

The moment of impact marked the first time in history that humans have attempted to alter the path of an asteroid, a flying piece of rubble left over from the formation of the solar system. Dimorphos is one of the ancient rocks that pose no threat to Earth. Mass extinctions are the most famous of which wiped out the dinosaurs.

The Stegosaurus did not have NASA.

The motion of a body in space is being changed. Tom Statler is a program scientist. The substance of fiction books and Star Trek from when I was a kid is now real.

Tweet may have been deleted

(opens in a new tab)

The broadcast gave viewers a deer-in-headlights experience. The team of scientists and engineers, as well as the general public, were able to see a 525-foot rock grow from a dot of light to a boulder through a camera on the spaceship. A closeup of an event happening 6.8 million miles away almost unfolded in real time with a 45 second delay.

The spaceship flew on autopilot for the last four hours of its life. There were no bombs on the back of the spaceship.

After the metal box met its demise, the images beamed down to the mission operations center suddenly stopped.

The impact part of the exercise was a success. It won't be known for a long time if DART was a triumph or a failure.

Sign up for more science and tech news. If you sign up for the newsletter, you'll get top stories.

DART heading toward Dimorphos

NASA won't know if the DART spacecraft was successful in moving an asteroid's orbit for likely weeks after the collision. Credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Steve Gribben

A planetary defense scheme

The mission is similar to running a golf cart into a pyramid. If it worked, the asteroid didn't get hit by the spaceship. Three minutes after the disaster, the LICIACube will fly by and take pictures of the damage.

The ideal specimen for tracking the results of DART's hit was chosen by NASA. It has been looping around Didymos for a long time.

"This was the substance of fiction books and really corny episodes of Star Trek from when I was a kid, and now it's real."

There are millions of space rocks. The majority of the asteroids are in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter.

There are no known asteroids that are going to hit our planet. There could be as many as 15,000 large objects waiting to be discovered according to scientists. Astronomers using powerful telescopes find around 500 new large space rocks every year.

It is extremely rare for an asteroid to hit. Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer for NASA, said that an asteroid the size of Dimorphos could be found only once in 1000 years.

Tweet may have been deleted

(opens in a new tab)

Even small rocks can cause a lot of damage. The city of Kansas City would be destroyed if an asteroid hit it. An undetected meteorite exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February of last year, causing an airburst and shockwave that injured 1,600 people. NASA said the rock was 60 feet across.

After the impact, ground-based telescopes will be used to look at Dimorphos. Every 11 hours and 55 minutes, the asteroid travels around it's companion. The scientists hope to shave off about 10 minutes.

It could be weeks before we know. One day, the space program may be able to prevent an asteroid from hitting the earth by shoving it out of the way.

We don't have to worry about that anymore.

The story is evolving. Don't forget to check back for the latest news.