NASA is going to deliberately smash a spacecraft into an asteroid Monday for a mission that started almost a year ago in November 2021.
The move is part of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), the first ever space mission to demonstrate asteroid deflection, according to the official website. The mission launched using a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California back in November, the site notes.
The asteroid NASA plans to hit is called Dimorphos, the moon of the larger Didymos asteroid, described by the team as the “ideal candidate for humankind’s first planetary defense experiment,” despite the asteroid not being on course to hit Earth at any time. Dimorphos is the smaller of the two asteroids, at only 525 feet, the site said.
— SPACE.com (@SPACEdotcom) September 26, 2022
The exact mass of Dimorphos has not been measured directly, but current estimates suggest it is about 5 billion kilograms, the DART site noted. The hope is that the impact of the DART will bring it’s orbit slightly closer to Didymos.
Researchers hope the experiment will reveal options for effectively crashing a spacecraft into an Earth-threatening asteroid should one ever be identified, the site reported. Impact is expected shortly after 7 p.m. EST Monday evening.
“When you’re driving a car, you hope you’re never going to have a car crash, but you want to know your airbags work, right?” Dr. Terik Daly, planetary scientist for DART, told Coffee or Die Magazine. “We want to do this test, but we want to test this technology in a way that does not pose a hazard to Earth.” (RELATED: Enormous Sinkhole Discovered With Shocking Interior)
Potentially hazardous asteroids have skimmed past Earth throughout this year, and NASA confirmed in April that their teams had identified the largest asteroid ever that is expected to fly somewhere near our Sun in 2031.