Within days, NASA plans to intentionally crash a spacecraft into an asteroid. Such an event may remind us of films like ‘Armageddon’ or ‘Deep Impact’, but this is very realistic and is the US space agency’s first test of planetary defence.
Of course, there is no real risk to Earth at this time. This is simply an experiment that, if successful, could one day serve to protect our planet from a catastrophic impact.
The Dual Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) was launched in November 2021, on what is nearing a year-long journey to crash into the small asteroid Dimorphos, which orbits a larger one called Didymos.
Didymos and Dimorphos will make their closest approach to Earth at the end of September, passing at a distance of approximately 10.8 million kilometres.
When will the impact take place?
The impact will take place on Monday September 26 at 19:14 and can be seen live on NASA TV and the agency’s YouTube channel.
The Virtual Telescope Project, based in Rome, has also partnered with several observatories in South Africa and will show the target asteroid in real time at the time of the scheduled impact.
This demonstration of ‘planetary defence’ will serve for future missions that could one day save Earth from a deadly asteroid impact.
This won’t destroy the asteroid, it will just give it enough of a shove to knock it off course.