A multimillion-dollar spacecraft collided head-on with an asteroid the size of a football stadium on Monday in an unprecedented test of Nasa’s capacity to defend Earth from a doomsday scenario.

Nasa’s craft successfully crashed into the asteroid Dimorphos 6.8m miles from Earth

The mission, known as Dart (Double Asteroid Redirection Test), marked humanity’s first attempt at moving another celestial body, with the goal of seeing if a large asteroid hurtling toward our planet could be successfully diverted.

The spacecraft collided with the asteroid at 15,000mph at 7.14pm EDT. Live-streamed video showed the asteroid’s rubble-strewn surface looming into focus before the spacecraft hit and cheers erupted in the mission control room

Teams of Nasa and Johns Hopkins University scientists hugged each other as Dart’s successful impact with Dimorphos was confirmed.

Shortly after impact, Lori Glaze, Nasa’s planetary science division director, declared it a “new era of humankind”.

“[It’s] an era in which we potentially have the capability to protect ourselves from something like a dangerous hazardous asteroid impact,” said Glaze. “What an amazing thing. We’ve never had that capability before.”

At a post-mission press conference, Dart scientists described the mission as a success but cautioned that it will be about two months before they know if the spacecraft succeeded in its ultimate objective of altering Dimorphos’s trajectory.