NASA’s DART mission will check a planetary protection technique by smacking an asteroid

If all goes effectively, a spacecraft that NASA launched final November will smash itself to bits in opposition to an asteroid on Monday.

If all goes completely completely, that affect will jostle the asteroid right into a barely completely different orbit, that means that for the primary time, people may have modified the trajectory of a celestial object.

Making historical past, nonetheless, is incidental. The actual mission is to defend the planet.

No must panic: The goal house rock has no probability of placing Earth, nor does another recognized asteroid for at the very least half a century. This NASA mission, operated by the Johns Hopkins College Utilized Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., is testing a method for redirecting an asteroid in case future Earth folks really want to bat one out of the best way.

The fundamental concept couldn’t be less complicated: Hit it with a hammer! However the diploma of problem is excessive, partly as a result of nobody has ever truly seen the asteroid NASA plans to nudge. It’s a moonlet named Dimorphos that’s concerning the measurement of a soccer stadium.

Sky watchers working the world’s highest-powered telescopes detect the moonlet solely as a shadow that crosses the bigger asteroid it orbits, Didymos, as the 2 circle the solar collectively. The pair make up a “double asteroid,” a standard association in our photo voltaic system.

Right here’s how the $330 million Double Asteroid Redirection Take a look at (DART) is designed to work: