NASA scientists are preparing for the world’s first mission to test planetary defence — and they want you to witness it.
The space agency’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) will put technology to the test to protect Earth from future asteroids and comets by deliberately colliding with an asteroid that presents no threat to Earth at 15,000 mph. The target, a moonlet of an enormous asteroid called Dimorphos, is roughly 525 feet wide.
The test demonstrates that a spaceship can drive independently to a specific asteroid and purposefully crash with it, disintegrating on impact and modifying the object’s speed and route. Scientists want to measure the change using Earth’s telescopes.
NASA intends to live broadcast the entire event on September 26 and invites the public to watch via its website, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. In addition, a live briefing from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, which produces and controls the DART satellite, will take place at 6 p.m. ET on “Impact Day.”
The kinetic impact is expected to occur around 7:14 p.m. ET. The space agency is also conducting an in-person celebration to commemorate the historic occasion.
Last year, scientists launched the modest $330 million mission, sending it roughly seven million kilometres away from Earth. It’s carrying a tiny spacecraft dubbed LICIACube, which will be launched from DART 10 days before impact to picture the crash and debris.
Astronomers presently estimate around 25,000 near-Earth asteroids 500 feet or greater in size. DART, if discovered, would hopefully give essential data to help researchers in planning for a future asteroid that might have a disastrous impact on our planet.