NASA Asteroid-Deflecting Mission Reveals Simulation of What Will Happen to Earth in Event of Impact

by Emily Morgan
Photo by: solarseven

On Monday, a robotic spacecraft will intentionally collide into a distant asteroid at 14,000 miles per hour to demonstrate NASA’s capability to defend Earth from the hurling space rocks.

According to reports from the space agency, the spacecraft, also referred to as the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test), will deliberately crash into a 530-foot-wide asteroid known as Dimorphos at a speed of nearly 15,000 miles per hour.

Like something out of a sci-fi movie, DART will first detect the asteroid, the size of a football stadium, as a single pixel in its camera. Then, about an hour later, DART will hit its target with enough force to nudge the space rock slightly off course. The entire event will play out nearly seven million miles from Earth.

If all goes all planned, and DART can successfully deter the asteroid off course, it could end up being a defense strategy if astronomists discover an asteroid headed toward us with potentially catastrophic consequences.

Previously, scientists have discovered most of the asteroids that can wipe out our existence. Thankfully, none of those known objects pose a threat as of now.

However, scientists are concerned about the thousands of smaller asteroids currently flying in space near us. As a result, one of those has the potential to smash into Earth, wreaking havoc more destructive than any nuclear weapon in existence.

NASA’s latest mission has potential to be useful defense strategy against looming asteroids

“This would be regionally devastating over a populated area, a city, a state, or a country,” Nancy Chabot, the coordination lead for DART at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, said. “So you might not be talking global extinction, but you still want to be able to prevent this if you could.”

In addition, astronomers believe they’ve only discovered less than half of the asteroids in that category flying near Earth.

According to reports, the DART spacecraft, crafted at Johns Hopkins University and later launched in November of 2021, is actually minuscule compared to Dimorphos. “You’re talking about something the size of a golf cart running into something the size of a stadium,” Chabot added. “So you can see that this is all about a small nudge.”

However, according to NASA, that may be all that’s needed to do the trick. According to reports, the seemingly slight change in its path will be enough to ensure that the colossal space rock will zoom past us if we’re in its trajectory.

Moreso, DART is using one test on how the space agency could defend Earth from the dangers of asteroids. Another tactic the agency said it might consider would involve sending a spacecraft to float near a hazardous asteroid to use its own gravity to pull on the asteroid’s path.