The asteroid-crushing spacecraft is just days away from reaching its goal

It’s finally happening. After about a year of anticipation surrounding NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), the mission will run on Monday night when the spacecraft is expected to crash into its target asteroid.

NASA said Thursday that the mission, the world’s first to test technology to defend the planet against potentially dangerous asteroids or comets, will strike its target asteroid at approximately 7:14 p.m. ET.

How to watch NASA send a spacecraft to deliberately crash into a 525ft wide asteroid at 15,000mph

The spacecraft being tested will crash directly into the 525 foot small moon, named Dimorphos, from the nearby asteroid Didymos. Dimorphos’ size is “more typical of the size of asteroids” that would likely be a major threat to Earth, NASA previously said. It’s a high-speed task with the spacecraft poised to slam into the asteroid at just under 15,000 mph, faster than a bullet and fast enough to change the tiny moon’s speed by a fraction of 1%, the agency said. POT.

Neither Dimorphos nor Didymos are currently a threat to Earth. According to NASA, no asteroid larger than 140 meters (459 feet) is known to have a “significant chance” of hitting Earth in the next century. However, only about 40% of those asteroids have been found as of October 2021.

Illustration of how the DART impact will alter the orbit of Dimorphos over Didymos. Telescopes on Earth will be able to measure the change in Dimorphos’s orbit to assess the effectiveness of the DART impact. / Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

“We’re testing to see if it can hit an asteroid and change its trajectory in case we ever find an asteroid headed toward Earth,” Karen Fox, NASA’s chief science communications officer, said Thursday.

Katherine Calvin, NASA’s chief scientist and chief climate adviser, said the agency looks at asteroids to better understand the history of the solar system and Earth, but also “to make sure we don’t get in their way.”

“Asteroid impacts have also had profound effects on Earth,” he said. “They have changed ecosystems and driven species to extinction. The dinosaurs didn’t have a space program to help them know what was coming, but we do, so DART represents an important advance in understanding how to avoid potential dangers.” in the future and how to protect our planet from possible impacts”.

NASA planetary defense officer Lindley Johnson said that while DART is an “exciting moment,” it is also monumental for “human history.”

“This demonstration is extremely important for our future here on Earth and life on Earth,” he said.

Telescopes on every continent on Earth, as well as the Hubble and James Webb telescopes in space, will observe the impact of the mission, DART program scientist Tom Statler said.

The body will offer a briefing on the test at 6:00 p.m. on Monday and will host another after the impact at 8:00 p.m.

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