NASA’s next planetary defense test mission is underway, and the space agency is trying to test whether or not it would be able to change the motion of an asteroid so it doesn’t crash into Earth and kill us all. In other words, NASA is putting the theories exposed in the Armageddon and Deep Impact disaster movies to the test.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) program is part of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office and will test whether a “kinetic impact” can “slightly change” the motion of the asteroid Dimorphous. In a blog post, NASA said that there are no asteroids that pose a threat to Earth, at least that we know of. The test is being conducted to determine if throwing it off course with an autonomous vehicle, DART, would be a “viable technique” in the event a killer asteroid is discovered.
The collision is expected to happen on Monday, September 26. The asteroid, Dimorphous, is about the size of two football fields and will collide at a speed of more than 6 km per second, or around 13,000 mph. “While the asteroid poses no threat to Earth, this is the world’s first test of the kinetic impact technique, using a spacecraft to deflect an asteroid for planetary defense,” NASA said.
NASA has already done “highly detailed computer simulations” of kinetic impacts on asteroids, but the actual test is being done to assess the effectiveness of the method in reality.
More details about the DART program can be found on NASA’s website.
In the movie Deep Impact, a group of astronauts land on a huge asteroid and place nuclear bombs inside it in an attempt to blow it up. It doesn’t work and the asteroid breaks in two. The smaller piece crashes to Earth and causes a megatsunami, while the surviving astronauts fly towards the larger piece, blowing it up and sacrificing themselves in the process to help save humanity.
Here’s hoping things go better if we ever have to do this for real.
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