In a first-of-its-kind mission, NASA is planning to crash a spacecraft into an asteroid on September 26 (Earth time), and you’ll be able to stream it live.
Humanity’s first experiment in diverting harmful asteroids from our planet, the mission called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, is meant to change the asteroid Dimorphos’ orbit by about 1%. Dimorphos is not on a collision course with Earth, but if the 520-foot space-rock were headed towards us, we’d be in bad shape, so NASA is using it as a test case for diverting a hypothetical future killer asteroid.
Where to watch NASA’s asteroid collision
The spacecraft-smashing-into-a-space-rock is happening about seven million miles from Earth, but NASA sent a camera-bearing craft out there to capture all the action. The space agency plans to stream the mission’s climax to the official NASA website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, and YouTube channel.
When will NASA’s craft crash into Dimophos?
The DART mission began nearly a year ago, and the climactic crash landing will happen on September 26 at 7:14 p.m. ET. The live coverage of the event begins at 6 p.m. ET.
What’s the point of NASA crashing a ship into an asteroid, anyway?
Space rocks hurtle into Earth regularly, but most are burned up in the atmosphere, and most that land are too small to do major damage. But if a large enough asteroid were to hurtle toward us, it would be cataclysmic. The dinosaurs were likely wiped out by an asteroid that hit earth about 66 million years, so NASA is taking the first steps to preventing a similar catastrophe from befalling humans.
“We don’t want to be in a situation where an asteroid is headed toward Earth and then have to be testing this kind of capability. We want to know about both how the spacecraft works and what the reaction will be…before we ever get in a situation like that,” Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer for NASA, told USA Today in November.
No one is really sure whether the spacecraft’s momentum will be enough to divert the asteroid, but the scientific data NASA gathers might help in future killer-space-rock scenarios (even if it leads to the conclusion that there’s nothing we can do about it.)
How much should we worry about being killed by an asteroid?
Whether we should not worry at all about a space rock hitting earth or worry about it constantly depends on your point-of-view. There are over 27,000 near-Earth objects in our solar system. As far as we know, none of them pose a threat to our planet, but we also know that millions of meteorites bombard Earth every day, although most of them are too small to make it though the atmosphere without burning up. Eventually, our luck is going to run out, though. There’s no telling how long it will be until an extinction-level meteor hits Earth again—it could be in 18 million years, or it could be next month. So go ahead and have an extra piece of cake.
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