When NASA crashes a $330 million spacecraft into an asteroid on September 26, don’t worry — it just means everything is going according to plan.
NASA is referring to the program as the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), or “the world’s first planetary defense test.”
NASA will make live footage of the DART program available online via NASA Live, it said.
NASA’s DART Mission: A Primer
The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory built DART as part of a larger planetary defense strategy, according to NASA. It launched nine months ago on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that originated from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
The space agency continued: “DART will show that a spacecraft can autonomously navigate to a target asteroid and intentionally collide with it — a method of deflection called kinetic impact. The test will provide important data to help better prepare for an asteroid that might pose an impact hazard to Earth.”
Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement: “DART is turning science fiction into science fact. … In addition to all the ways NASA studies our universe and our home planet, we’re also working to protect that home. This test will help prove one viable way to protect our planet from a hazardous asteroid.”
“At its core, DART is a mission of preparedness, and it is also a mission of unity,” added Thomas Zurbuchen. He is an associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
What To Expect From DART
NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is managing the launch. SpaceX is the launch services provider for the DART mission, the space agency said.
Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA Headquarters, also provided a statement regarding the mission.
“We have not yet found any significant asteroid impact threat to Earth. But we continue to search for that sizable population we know is still to be found. Our goal is to find any possible impact … so it can be deflected with a capability like DART,” Johnson said.
“DART is one aspect of NASA’s work to prepare Earth should we ever [confront] an asteroid hazard,” he said.