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

If all goes effectively, the spacecraft that NASA plans to launch Tuesday will smash itself to bits in opposition to an asteroid.

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

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

No have to panic: The goal house rock has no probability of hanging Earth, nor does some other identified asteroid for not less than 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 actually need 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 typical association in our photo voltaic system.

Right here’s how the $330 million Double Asteroid Redirection Check (DART) is meant to work: