The plot point for more than one movie is a rogue asteroid that threatens to cause mass destruction and the death of everyone on the planet.

There is only one chance for humanity to save itself and that is by destroying the asteroid.

That is the movie. The reality would be shown by NASA.

The asteroid wasn't threatening the Earth. There was a craft that relied on technology. There was a physics and engineering lab between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., where the human heroes of the mission were located.

There was a hit and run. It was the final act of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, a spacecraft that launched in November and then raced around the sun for 10 months as it pursued its target, a small space rock.

A sped-up replay of the final moments of the DART spacecraft as it passed the asteroid Didymos and crashed into its moon, Dimorphos. Video by NASA/Johns Hopkins APL.

"For the first time, humanity has demonstrated the ability to autonomously target and alter the path of a comet," Semmel said during the news conference after the crash. The mission was managed by the lab.

A high-speed projectile hitting an asteroid moves it around. A direct hit to an asteroid could be changed by that.

A series of photographs of the asteroid, Dimorphos, were sent back in the final moments of the mission.

The dot of light DART spotted was Dimorphos. The pile of rubble grew larger and larger until the picture of the asteroids surface filled the screen. The engineers were happy.

Losing signal from the satellite is a very bad thing. It was the perfect outcome.

The data didn't make it back to Earth. The asteroid had been hit by DART.

Nancy Chabot, a planetary scientist at the laboratory who works on the mission, exclaimed, "That was amazing, wasn't it?"

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft, or DART, slammed into a small asteroid, demonstrating technology that could protect Earth from a space rock in the future.CreditCredit...ASI/NASA, via Associated Press

Hollywood has always been fascinated with the prospect of disaster raining down from the stars. Scientists and policymakers have taken the threat more seriously.

Efforts to protect the planet from asteroids weren't prioritized for a long time. The DART mission's program scientist, Thomas Statler, said that the DART mission was able to find all of the big asteroids that would wreak planet-wide destruction.

The impact of a global scale is very rare. Smaller objects in space are the focus of planners at NASA and other places. Although they wouldn't cause mass extinctions, they can unleash more energy than a nuke.

The conversation has matured according to Dr. Statler.

There are a number of initiatives sponsored by NASA and Congressional appropriators that are focused on planetary defense. The Vera Rubin Observatory is a new telescope that is funded by the United States and will be used to find potentially hazardous asteroids. NASA is working on a telescope that will be used in outer space. Some of the asteroids that are hard to spot from Earth will be found.

The DART mission shows that it's possible to dodge asteroids if they hit Earth.

The impact took place at 7:14 pm for the engineers on the mission. They ended their work at Eastern time. The spaceship locked on Dimorphos after four hours of operation.

DART's camera spotted Dimorphos for the first time a little more than an hour before the crash. The smaller asteroid, Didymos, was lost in the glare of the larger object until the dimorphos came around. The smaller asteroid was the focus of DART.

If something went wrong, mission controllers could have stopped it. They didn't have to change anything.

Everyone in the control room was watching the stream of pictures of Dimorphos. It was done. The initial analysis showed that the spaceship hit the center.

Elena Adams said she felt relieved. It is great to do something like that. We are so happy to be done.

ImageThe DART mission launching from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California in November 2021.
The DART mission launching from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California in November 2021.Credit...Bill Ingalls/NASA
The DART mission launching from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California in November 2021.

The work of asteroid scientists is just starting.

The crash happened when the asteroids were close.

The telescopes on Earth were able to see it. According to NASA and the mission's managers, about 40 of them were pointing at Didymos and Dimorphos. The camera on Lucy was one of the telescopes that were included. The LICIACube was built by the Italian Space Agency and is about the size of a shoe box. The trajectory was shifted so that it didn't hit the asteroid.

The lead of the observations working group for the mission is a professor of astronomy and planetary sciences at Northern Arizona University. We are throwing everything we have at it because it is going to be amazing.

The DART data and images will be used by Dr. Thomas and others to figure out what DART did to Dimorphos. How much the smaller asteroid has sped up will be the most important measurement. That will show how the asteroid moved closer to Didymos as a result of the inertia of the spaceship. Seven minutes is how long the change is expected to be.

If the space rock was a pile of rubble, Dimorphos would have gotten a bigger push. A shower of debris could have been sent into space if DART crashed. The material would have pushed against the asteroid.

The Didymos-Dimorphos system is being looked at to see if there is a brighter system from the sun. It is possible to reveal details about the composition of Dimorphos.

When Hera arrives, it will be able to take a closer look at the two asteroids. The crater should be at least 30 feet wide.

The asteroid pair take two years to travel around the sun. There is no chance of either of the asteroids hitting Earth in the foreseeable future.

With a successful demonstration that an asteroid can be diverted, Dr. Adams thinks that Earthlings should sleep better. "Yes, I will."