The space agency is preparing to launch a missile into an asteroid this week, with hopes its plan to explode the gigantic space rock could one day save the planet.
NASA will launch a missile into an asteroid in what could be a potentially planet-saving plan.
The space agency’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission will fire off a SpaceX rocket on November 24 with the missile expected to hit its target in September 2022.
DART’s ambition plan will see a missile impact and redirect the path of an asteroid for the first time in history. It is expected to smash into an asteroid late next year.
The mission’s co-ordination lead Nancy Chabot said it is safer to explode the asteroid than just bump into it.
“You don’t want, necessarily, to make this more complicated than it has to be, right? You would do this well ahead of time, like decades — 10, 20, 30 years ahead,” she told the Washington Post.
“Small changes add up to big changes in that amount of time.”
DART Mission manager Clayton Kachele added that the asteroid was not on track to hit our planet.
“Didymos is not currently a threat to Earth, and the DART demonstration has been carefully designed to make sure it doesn’t create a threat,” he said.
“This test is a demonstration of a deflection capability to respond to a potential asteroid impact threat, should one ever be discovered.”
Didymos primary body is about 780 meters across, while its secondary body (or “moonlet”) is about 160-meters in size, which is more typical of the size of asteroids that could pose the most likely significant threat to Earth.
The Didymos structure is being intensely observed using telescopes on Earth to precisely measure its properties before DART arrives.
DART will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from California.
After separation from the launch vehicle, the DART spacecraft will intercept Didymos’ moonlet in late September 2022, when the Didymos system is within 11 million kilometres of Earth.