NASA plans ‘Armageddon’-style mission to crash into asteroid’s moon

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NASA is preparing for potential asteroid strikes by launching a Double Asteroid Redirection Test on November 24, 2021. NASA/Johns Hopkins, APL/Steve Gribben

NASA is a taking page out of the action flick “Armageddon” – by launching a spaceship to wallop an asteroid’s moon in a test to deflect a space rock threatening our planet.

The space agency’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, is set to lift off at 1:20 a.m. EST on Nov. 24 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

The planetary defense mission is anticipated to make impact between Sept. 26 and Oct. 2, 2022 – striking its target at nearly 15,000 mph, 6.8 million miles away from Earth, officials said.

Live coverage of the launch will be shown on NASA TV, the agency’s app and its website.

“DART will be the first demonstration of the kinetic impactor technique, which involves sending one or more large, high-speed spacecraft into the path of an asteroid in space to change its motion,” NASA said.

“Its target is the binary near-Earth asteroid Didymos and its moonlet,” it added.

DART will be sending satellites to hit the asteroid Didymos and its moonlet.
DART will be sending satellites to hit the asteroid Didymos and its moonlet. NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab
DART team members inspecting one of the spacecrafts that will be used in the launch.
DART team members inspecting one of the spacecrafts that will be used in the launch. NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

The Planetary Defense Coordination Office manages the mission, which involves sending a pair of satellites out to the relatively nearby Didymos, which is about 2,600 feet in diameter, and its 525-foot-wide moonlet, according to Tech Crunch.

“Up until now, we haven’t had too many options for what we might do if we found something that was incoming,” Johns Hopkins planetary astronomer Andy Rivkin told Vice News recently.

“DART is the first test of how we might be able to deflect something without having to resort to a nuclear package, or sitting in our basements, waiting it out and crossing our fingers,” he added.

The Italian Space Agency is collaborating with the Light Italian CubeSat for Imagine Asteroids, or LICIACube, which will observe “the mess we make,” as Rivkin put it.

The satellites are scheduled make an impact in late 2022.
The satellites are scheduled to make an impact in late 2022.

Earthbound humans also will be able to catch the action with very powerful telescopes. 

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