VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (NewsNation Now) — It sounds like something straight out of a Michael Bay followup to “Armageddon,” but this mission to redirect an asteroid is taking place in real life.
On Wednesday, NASA will launch DART, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, a great example of what Owen Wilson’s character in “Armageddon” called “deep blue hero stuff,” except in this case the hero is a small satellite with a very hard head.
The target, some six million miles out in space, is a binary asteroid system made up of a large asteroid, Didymos, and its smaller, orbiting, fellow traveler Dimorphos. The idea is to crash into Dimorphos on the proper angle to knock it off its orbit, which will then affect the path of Didymos, much like a child tugging on a parent’s hand can pull them off their path.
Elena Adams, DART mission systems engineer, told “Morning in America’s” Ileana Diaz that, “Our impact angle on the plate of Dimorphos is really uncertain right now, and it’s really going to depend on what Dimorphos actually looks like, and we’re not going to find that out until the last 20 seconds.”
The two asteroids do occasionally pass by Earth, but not on a path or at a proximity that makes them any danger to our home planet. This is simply a test looking toward that day in the future when we do find the asteroid headed straight for us and we don’t have Bruce Willis and a plucky crew of oil drillers on hand to save the planet.
Will it work? That remains to be seen. The research has all been done, the numbers have all been calculated, so all that’s left is to launch the rocket and see what happens late next year when it gets to its target.