NASA is about to test its “Armageddon”-like mission of crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid, and it wants the public to watch live.
Asteroids frequently approach Earth, but it’s been over 65 million years since a catastrophic collision with our planet. There’s been a resurgence of interest in objects rushing towards us since the popularity of 2021’s doomsday comedy “Don’t Look Up.”
NASA will test its plan in case the scenario actually plays out.
“We want to do it now rather than when there’s a real need,” said NASA program manager Andrea Riley.
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The space agency’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, will crash into the asteroid Dimorphos, which orbits a larger asteroid named Didymos, on Monday. Scientists say none of the asteroids are heading for Earth, but Dimorphos, estimated at 520 feet in length, is an asteroid that could cause significant damage if it were to hit Earth, according to NASA.
Regardless of the outcome, the mission will provide astronomers and scientists with important data on what the response would be if an asteroid were on a collision course with Earth. No threat exists now, scientists say.
“We don’t want to be in a situation where an asteroid is heading towards Earth and then has to test that kind of capability. We want to know both how the spacecraft works and what the reaction will be…before we end up in a situation like this,” NASA Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson said in November.
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When will DART hit the asteroid Dimorphos?
DART will complete its 10-month journey into space on September 26 at 7:14 p.m. ET. Live NASA coverage will begin at 6 p.m. ET.
Ten days earlier, DART will launch a tiny observation spacecraft that will capture the collision.
Where can I observe the impact of the DART mission?
NASA will broadcast the event live on NASA TV and on its website. It can also be consulted on its accounts on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
You can also watch a USA TODAY live stream here.
What will DART do?
The collision will occur about 6.8 million kilometers from Earth. Arriving at 15,000 mph, DART will not destroy Dimorphos but “give him a little boost”. The collision will alter the asteroid’s orbit by about 1%, which would be enough to knock one away from Earth.
“It’s really about asteroid deflection, not disruption,” said Nancy Chabot, planetary scientist and mission team leader at Johns Hopkins University, who is managing the effort. “It’s not going to blow up the asteroid. It’s not going to tear it apart.”
Contributor: Associated Press
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