On Wednesday (November 24th), NASA launched the first mission to hit an asteroid as a test against future threats. A spacecraft will crash into the satellite Dimorphos at a speed of nearly 25,000 kilometers per hour, enough to alter its trajectory.
NASA scientists say that for the next 100 years, no asteroid capable of wreaking havoc will ever get close to Earth. Scientists want to learn how to avoid a possible collision with Earth in the distant future.
The target is the satellite Dimorphos, which is the size of a football field and orbits the asteroid Didymos – which is five times larger. The shock will be 11 million kilometers from Earth. The impact, expected between September and October 2022, will be so intense that it will create the first human-made meteor shower.
NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office is more interested in bodies bigger than 140 meters, as they have the potential to devastate entire cities or regions with several times the energy of nuclear bombs.
There are 10,000 known near-Earth asteroids of this size, but none have a significant chance of impacting in the next 100 years. However, it is estimated that only 40% of these asteroids have been found so far.
“DART is turning science fiction into science fact and is a testament to NASA’s proactivity and innovation for the benefit of all”, said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “In addition to all the ways NASA studies our universe and our home planet, we’re also working to protect that home, and this test will help prove out one viable way to protect our planet from a hazardous asteroid should one ever be discovered that is headed toward Earth”.