Image via NASA/Johns Hopkins APL
NASA looks set to shoot a satellite to “intentionally crash” with an asteroid and redirect it as part of its planetary defense mission. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is set to take place on Monday, September 26 at 7.14 pm EDT.
First announced last year, DART is aimed to collide with Dimorphos, a 560 feet wide moonlet of the asteroid Didymos. Both comets are estimated to be 6.8 million miles away from us and, thankfully, are not Earth-bound but orbit between Mars and us.
Though posing no threat to our planet, it was picked to help prove that the trajectory of fast-moving meteors can indeed be deflected with deliberate collisions—in case any comes our way in the future.
Image via NASA JPL DART Navigation Team
The satellite weighs over a thousand pounds and will use “kinetic deflection” to bump the orbiting comets slightly off course.
DART is estimated to hit Dimorphos at 15,000 mph and hopefully change its velocity by 0.4 mm/s. Upon impact, DART will destroy itself. This result will then shave a few minutes off its actual orbit around Didsymos and change the course of the more prominent asteroid altogether.
The Italian Space Agency will use its satellite, the Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids, to record the whole process for further study. In addition, come 2024, the European Space Agency will launch a separate project known as Hera to find the comets and examine the effects of DART.
[via Forbes and Sky News, images via various sources]