NASA Crashing Spacecraft into Asteroid for First Planetary Defense Test: 'Stuff of Science-Fiction Books'

·3 min read
This file artist's illustration obtained from NASA on November 4, 2021 shows the DART spacecraft from behind prior to impact at the Didymos binary system. - NASA on Monday will attempt a feat humanity has never before accomplished: deliberately smacking a spacecraft into an asteroid to slightly deflect its orbit, in a key test of our ability to stop cosmic objects from devastating life on Earth. (Photo by Handout / NASA / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO /NASA/Johns Hopkins APL'" -"
This file artist's illustration obtained from NASA on November 4, 2021 shows the DART spacecraft from behind prior to impact at the Didymos binary system. - NASA on Monday will attempt a feat humanity has never before accomplished: deliberately smacking a spacecraft into an asteroid to slightly deflect its orbit, in a key test of our ability to stop cosmic objects from devastating life on Earth. (Photo by Handout / NASA / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO /NASA/Johns Hopkins APL'" -"

AFP PHOTO/NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Getty

If all goes according to plan, NASA will be one step closer to preventing the plot of Netflix's Don't Look Up from ever happening in the future.

On Monday, the agency is set to test technology for defending the planet against potential asteroids and comets by crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid at around 14,000 mph.

But don't worry, the world's first-ever planetary defense test, NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), will be executed against a non-threatening asteroid, NASA shared in a release.

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"This is stuff of science-fiction books and really corny episodes of 'StarTrek' from when I was a kid, and now it's real," said NASA program scientist Tom Statler, per the Associated Press.

The asteroid, called Dimorphos, is roughly 7 million miles away from Earth and 525 feet (160 meters) across, according to the AP. It orbits a parent asteroid Didymos and its potential re-routing is the center of $325 million planetary defense test.

The crash, scheduled for 7:14 p.m. EDT, is going to be monitored on cameras and telescopes, but it'll take days before scientists understand if the asteroid actually changed its course.

"This really is about asteroid deflection, not disruption," Nancy Chabot, a planetary scientist and mission team leader at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, told the news agency. "This isn't going to blow up the asteroid. It isn't going to put it into lots of pieces."

CBS News reports that there isn't an asteroid NASA knows to be larger than 140 meters (459 feet) that has "significant chance" of hitting Earth in the next 100 years, but it doesn't hurt to be safe. The collision itself is being looked at as monumental in the "history of humankind," per NASA planetary defense officer Lindley Johnson.

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"This demonstration is extremely important to our future here on the Earth and life on Earth," Johnson said, according to CBS News.

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The Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory is managing Dart, and the navigation of the spacecraft will reportedly be able to tell the smaller asteroid target from its larger sister asteroid before it makes impact. NASA says there's a less than 10% chance that Dart will miss its target, per the AP.

NASA will hold a 6 p.m. EDT briefing Monday, as well as a second at 8 p.m. after the impact.