HomeWorld NewsWhy NASA Is About to Crash Into an Asteroid

Why NASA Is About to Crash Into an Asteroid

Seven million miles away is an asteroid that poses no threat to Earth, but NASA on Monday aims to strike it with a spacecraft to see if it can redirect its course.

It’s called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, a mission that NASA Administrator Bill Nelson called a “giant step in planetary defense.”

“It’s the world’s first mission to test the technology for defending Earth against an incoming killer asteroid,” Nelson said in a recorded statement.

The spacecraft is expected to crash into the asteroid, called Dimorphos, at more than 14,000 miles per hour at 7:14 pm on Monday.

“It’ll be a first test to help determine our response if we really do see an asteroid that’s out there threatening to hit Earth,” Nelson said.

NASA doesn’t want to blow up the asteroid. Instead, it hopes to prove that it is able to shift the asteroid’s trajectory. The event will be captured by a small companion satellite called LICIACube.

According to NASA, while “no known asteroid larger than 140 meters in size has a significant chance to hit Earth for the next 100 years, only about 40% of those asteroids have been found to date.”

Still, roughly 80-100 tons of material falls from space down to Earth every day in the form of dust and fragments of asteroids that disintegrate in Earth’s atmosphere. And in 2013, a meteor explosion over Russia sent a shock wave that injured about 1,200 people and damaged more than 7,000 buildings. That meteor was about 55-feet wide traveling at about 40,000 miles per hour. An impact of an object that size, NASA estimates, takes place once or twice a century.

Nelson noted that the dinosaurs were “wiped out” by an asteroid that was 6 miles wide.

“If that kind of threat were to come, and were incoming, we’d be ready if we could find it far enough away, hit it, move its trajectory, so by the time it got to Earth it would miss us,” Nelson said.

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