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Google celebrates NASA's DART mission with a new search gimmick

Google's new animation shows a spacecraft knocking your screen off-kilter.
Screenshot by NPR
Google's new animation shows a spacecraft knocking your screen off-kilter.

Tech giant Google took it upon itself to launch its own type of celebration following NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission successfully crashing into an asteroid on Monday evening.

If you Google "NASA DART" or "NASA DART mission" it will trigger an animation featuring a spacecraft hitting the "News" tab and knocking your search results off-kilter.

The search gimmick reflects NASA's actual mission to knock the asteroid Dimorphos slightly off course as it orbits another asteroid.

Neither of the asteroids, which are located about 7 million miles away, pose any threat to Earth. But the test's true purpose is to see if it's possible to nudge an asteroid off course if, in the future, one becomes a danger to Earth.

NASA engineers say it will be about two months before they are able to tell if the spacecraft was able to give the asteroid a meaningful nudge.

Google often unveils special graphics or animations, including fireworks on the Fourth of July, but an animation that changes the angle of the search results appears to be new. The company's Google Doodles on Google.com frequently feature historical figures or events on anniversaries.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

James Doubek is an associate editor and reporter for NPR. He frequently covers breaking news for NPR.org and NPR's hourly newscast. In 2018, he reported feature stories for NPR's business desk on topics including electric scooters, cryptocurrency, and small business owners who lost out when Amazon made a deal with Apple.