As a NASA satellite hurtled towards a pile of rocks in space, scientists gathered at the University Applied Physics Laboratory issued their analysis.

It doesn't look like an asteroid.

I knew it was a rubble pile.

I'm so happy!

In the final moments of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, researchers who had spent years designing and simulating the spacecraft's collision with the moon of a larger asteroid were watching the tv. They welcomed each new image with a loud cheer. The screen went bright red as the satellite lost signal.

The scientists had tears in their cheeks and the crowd erupted. fireworks came from behind the building The first ever planetary defense test was a smashing success.

The people in the room were completely shocked. Jessica is a planetary scientist at the University of Maryland. Nobody could have predicted that it would work.

DART's images of the double asteroid system just before the crash surprised scientists. Astronomers thought that the bigger body would be shaped like a spinning top. Harrison Agrusa is an astronomer at the University of Maryland and DART member.

The small asteroid appeared to be spherical. The rubble-pile structure on the moon suggests that it may have formed from the material that fell off the parent body. Figuring out the shape and composition of these objects will help astronomy.

a crowd of people throw their hands up in celebration
Scientists celebrate the Double Asteroid Redirection Test’s impact at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University.Zack Savitsky/Science

The DART satellite is about the size and mass of a cow and was launched in November 2021. The last resting place of the craft was Dimorphos, the 160-meter-wide moon. In case the satellite malfunctioned, the DART team prepared a series of last-second emergency maneuvers, but they didn't have to do anything. DART hit it's target at 6 kilometers per second.

Elena Adams says they are excited to be done. I am able to sleep.

Not everyone went to bed at the same time. Two people are in a lounge of the South African Astronomical Observatory, halfway across the globe. The impact they captured with the Lesedi Telescope was captured when DART's transmission cut to red. They wanted to see confirmation in the form of a gradual brightening of the asteroid system, as dust and rocks knocked off the asteroid would reflect more sunlight onto the telescope. Within seconds of the impact, they were able to see the asteroid sneeze out a large amount of debris. Sickafoose says they were surprised.

The ATLAS-STH telescope in South Africa captures the ejecta plume resulting from the Double Asteroid Redirection Test’s collision.ATLAS Project/University of Hawaii

Astronomers from all over the world watched the collision. Scenes were captured through DART's internal channels.

Alan Fitzsimmons is an astronomer at Queen's University Belfast. The data is amazing, you couldn't have asked for a better test.

LICIACube will release more images of the asteroids over the next few days. The space telescopes will get better pictures of the cloud of ejected particles. Scientists will use the change in light from the system to figure out how effective DART was in changing the trajectory of the moon.

NASA scientists say the test mission went well. Amy Mainzer, an astronomer at the University of Arizona, says that the biggest challenge is knowing where the objects are. If you can't locate them, you can't help them.

Calculating the number of Dimorphos-size asteroids that could destroy a large city or small country is difficult. NASA has a plan to identify and track most of the threats with a telescope. The mission is delayed because of a lack of funds.

DART's success could help identify planetary threats. We didn't know if we could divert the asteroid. Fitzsimmons says we can today. ART has shown us that we are not the same as the dinosaurs. Let's do something about the asteroids.