This week, NASA conducts its first planetary defense mission by crashing into an asteroid and knocking it off course.
As Live Science reported, NASA is sending a probe into space to collide with an asteroid on purpose to see if this is an effective way of changing the course of any dangerous space rocks heading our way.
DART will be launched into space by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base near Lompoc, California.
The asteroid moonlet Dimorphos, which orbits the larger asteroid Didymos, is the target of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, which is scheduled to launch at 1:20 a.m. EST (6:20 a.m. GMT) on Nov. 24. Live launch coverage will begin on Nov. 24 at 12:30 a.m. EST (5:30 a.m. GMT) and will be available on Live Science, NASA Television, the NASA app, and NASA’s website.
DART is bound for Didymos, an asteroid that orbits the sun slightly beyond Earth’s orbital path. DART will arrive at its destination between the end of September and the beginning of October next year. Once there, it will hurl itself into Didymos’ smaller companion, the moonlet Dimorphos, so that scientists on Earth can assess the effectiveness of a controlled collision in deflecting a potentially hazardous asteroid.
Didymos is a binary asteroid system, meaning it consists of two bodies.
Scientists chose Didymos as DART’s target because colliding with Dimorphos would cause the moonlet’s orbit to shift slightly around the larger body.
Researchers can then determine how this tactic could divert an asteroid on a collision course with Earth by measuring changes in the orbital relationship between Dimorphos and Didymos.
Didymos will be around 6.8 million miles (11 million km) from Earth when DART collides with Dimorphos, which is expected to happen between Sept. 26 and Oct. 1 in 2022, and it will be traveling at a speed of roughly 15,000 mph (24,000 km/h), according to NASA.