Unlike Hollywood sci-fi movies, we’ve rarely had to deal with incoming asteroids on Earth, but NASA is taking no chances! Early tomorrow morning, NASA will launch the Double Asteroid Redirection Test or DART. The first of its kind, DART will test the idea of deflecting an asteroid by colliding with the small moonlet in a double asteroid system. Mitch Schulte, program scientist, joined us today to share more about this mission. Here’s more from him:
NASA will be launching its first-ever mission to redirect an asteroid. This asteroid is not a danger to Earth, but NASA is ready to test planetary defense capabilities for the future; no superpowers or drilling teams needed. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft will be headed towards the asteroid Didymos and its small moon and impact target, Dimorphos. DART will intentionally collide with Dimorphos to alter the path of this small asteroid around the larger asteroid Didymos. NASA’s goal with DART is for us to be prepared with a planetary defense capability if an asteroid is ever discovered to be on a collision course with Earth in the future.
Small fragments of asteroids, from pebble-sized to person-sized, hit the Earth every day. Dimorphos is about the height of the Washington Monument (but much bulkier). An asteroid this big could cause severe damage if it were to collide with our planet. No known asteroid poses an impact threat to Earth for the next 100 years, but the danger from asteroids not yet discovered is still unknown. The DART mission will be the first of its kind to alter the path of an asteroid so we can observe how a real asteroid responds to a deflection attempt, should we ever need to deflect one.