After a 10-month, 7-million-mile journey, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft will finally slam head-on into its target, an asteroid roughly the size of a 50-story building.
The 1,200-pound DART, which is about the size of a vending machine, left Earth over 300 days ago when it hitched a ride on a SpaceX Falcon 9 in November 2021.
On Monday at 7:14 p.m. EDT, DART is expected to hit the asteroid, Dimorphos, at 14,000 mph. The purpose of the collision is to nudge it closer to its bigger companion space rock, Didymos.
Dimorphos is orbiting the larger asteroid at a distance of less than a mile, according to The Associated Press.
The mission is a test of NASA’s planetary defense system that could, theoretically, redirect a “hazardous asteroid” before it obliterates life on Earth by utilizing the kinetic impactor technique or shooting one or more large spacecraft into the path of an oncoming asteroid to change the space rock’s motion, according to NBC News.
The test results will be seen by ground-based telescopes and planetary radar, which will measure the change in momentum of Dimorphos. According to AP, it will take days or weeks to determine if it changed its orbit.
NASA says there’s no chance either asteroid will threaten Earth, and that’s why the pair was picked.
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