NASA will guide a spacecraft at 24,000 kilometers per hour toward an asteroid, in what they call a “planetary defense” test. The test takes place in November.
In the 1998 blockbuster Hollywood movie Armageddon, Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck try to save Earth from colliding with an asteroid. Our planet does not face a similar threat, but NASA still plans to test whether it can in this way neutralize an asteroid bound for Earth.
On Thursday, NASA said that the project, bearing the acronym DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test), will have a price tag of about $330 million, just over 2.8 billion crowns.
“Although we do not currently know of an asteroid on a collision course with Earth, we do know that there are many near-Earth asteroids,” said Lindley Johnson, chief of NASA’s Planetary Defense Division.
The key to planetary defense is to find them before they threaten to strike Earth. He added that we do not want to end up in a situation where an asteroid is heading towards Earth, and we then have to test that possibility.
The spacecraft will be aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, and will be launched on November 23 from California. If all goes as planned, the collision with the asteroid, which lies about 11 million kilometers from Earth, will occur sometime between September 26 and October 1 next year.
The missile won’t destroy the asteroid, but it will hide above it and thus disrupt the course, according to Nancy Chabot, who was involved in building the Dart ship. The purpose is to help scientists figure out how much momentum is required to turn an asteroid, in the event that we end up in a scenario where one heads toward Earth.
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