NASA is getting ready to smash a spacecraft directly into an asteroid next week

Callum Jones

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NASA is getting ready to smash a spacecraft directly into an asteroid next week

Featured Image Credit: NASA Photo / dpa picture alliance / Alamy Stock Photo

NASA is preparing to do something that has never been done before, as it will attempt to crash one of its spacecraft into an asteroid.

You probably think that is something only seen in movies, but there is some science behind it.

The space agency will deliberately crash the spacecraft into the asteroid to deflect its orbit, in what is a key test to see if we can stop cosmic objects potentially heading for Earth in the future.

NASA will use the Double Asteroid Redirect Test spacecraft, otherwise known as DART, on Monday (26 September) as a 'battering ram'.

The DART mission was launched last November. Credit: NASA Photo / Alamy Stock Photo
The DART mission was launched last November. Credit: NASA Photo / Alamy Stock Photo

In a statement released earlier this month, NASA said: "While the asteroid poses no threat to Earth, this is the world's first test of the kinetic impact technique, using a spacecraft to deflect an asteroid for planetary defense."

The DART spaceship first launched from California last November and is fast approaching the asteroid.

Speaking to reporters ahead the mission on Monday, Lindley Johnson, a planetary defense officer for NASA said: "This is an exciting time, not only for the agency, but in space history and in the history of humankind quite frankly."

If all goes to plan, the impact between the spacecraft and the asteroid will take place on 26 September at 23:14 GMT.

NASA says a final manoeuvre will take place approximately 24 hours before the collision, which will allow the navigation team to know the position of the asteroid within two kilometres.

Scientists have said each manoeuvre will reduce the margin of error for the DART's required trajectory to impact the asteroid.

If DART hits the asteroid at 15,000mph as planned, it will test the kinetic impactor earth defense theory. 

The mission is hoped to stop asteroids hitting Earth in the future. Credit: Andrea Danti / Alamy Stock Photo
The mission is hoped to stop asteroids hitting Earth in the future. Credit: Andrea Danti / Alamy Stock Photo

Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory Planetary astronomer Andy Rivkin explained the reasoning behind this theory: "The point of a kinetic impactor is you ram your spacecraft into the asteroid you're worried about, and then you change its orbit around the sun by doing that."

If this theory ends up working, the plan is to use the same technique on larger asteroids.

NASA will be marking the momentous occasion by holding a social event, which includes a tour of the facilities at the Johns Hopkins APL and the chance to ask questions to experts who are involved with the mission.

Unfortunately, applications for this event are now closed and the lucky space enthusiasts who are invited have been informed.

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected] 

Topics: Technology, NASA, Space, Science

Callum Jones
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