NASA’s asteroid-smashing spacecraft nears its target


Illustration of NASA’s DART spacecraft.
(Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins)

(NewsNation) — The world’s first planetary defense test mission, NASA’s $325 million project to smash a spacecraft into an asteroid, is aligning in the heavens.

The DART spacecraft, short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, is fast approaching its target and expected to slam head-on into Dimorphos, an asteroid 525 feet across, at 15,000 mph Monday.

“This isn’t going to destroy the asteroid. It’s just going to give it a small nudge,” mission official Nancy Chabot of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory told the Associated Press.

The DART lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in November 2021.

In the first test of its kind, NASA is flexing its ability to protect the earth from the thousands of asteroids and comets — known as Near-Earth objects (NEOS) — that could potentially pose a risk to our planet.

Flying into space with DART is a small satellite companion called LICIACube (short for Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging Asteroids) that will separate before DART’s impact to record the collision for the world to see.

Using telescopes back on Earth, NASA hopes to be able to measure how much DART changes the asteroid’s course. The data will be able to help NASA better prepare for an asteroid that could “pose an impact or hazard to Earth,” if that threat ever becomes a reality.

NASA will be streaming live coverage on its social media accounts — FacebookTwitter, and YouTube — starting at 6 p.m. ET on Sept. 26. Impact is expected at 7:14 p.m. ET.

The Nexstar Media Wire, Associated Press contributed to this report.

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