It is finally happening. After about a year of waiting around NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), the mission will run Monday night when the spacecraft is expected to crash into its target asteroid.
On Thursday, NASA said the mission, the first in the world to test technology to defend the planet from potentially dangerous asteroids or comets, will hit its target asteroid around 7:14 pm ET.
The spacecraft being tested will crash directly into the, called Dimorphos, from the nearby asteroid Didymos. Dimorphos’ size is “more typical of the size of asteroids” which would most likely pose a significant threat to Earth, NASA previously said. It’s a high-speed task with the spacecraft set to crash into the asteroid at just under 15,000 mph, faster than a bullet and fast enough to change the moonlet’s speed by a fraction of 1%, NASA said. .
Neither Dimorphos nor Didymos are currently a threat to Earth. According to NASA, there is no known asteroid larger than 140 meters (459 feet) with a “significant chance” of hitting Earth in the next century. However, only about 40% of those asteroids were found in October 2021.
“We are testing to see if it is possible to impact an asteroid and change its trajectory should we ever find an asteroid headed for Earth,” said Karen Fox, senior science communications officer at NASA on Thursday.
Katherine Calvin, NASA’s chief scientist and senior climate consultant, said the agency examines asteroids to better understand the history of the solar system and the Earth, but also “to make sure we don’t get in their way.”
“The asteroid impacts have had profound effects on Earth as well,” he said. “They changed ecosystems and led to the extinction of species. Dinosaurs didn’t have a space program to help them know what was going on, but we did, and so DART represents an important advance in understanding how to avoid potential dangers in the future and how to protect our planet from potential impacts “.
NASA Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson said that while DART is an “exciting time”, it is also monumental to “the history of mankind”.
“This demonstration is extremely important for our future here on Earth and for life on Earth,” he said.
Telescopes on all of Earth’s continents, as well as the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes, will observe the impact of the mission, said DART program scientist Tom Statler.
The agency will provide a test briefing on Monday at 6pm and host another one after impact at 8pm
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