NASA Spacecraft Slamming Into an Asteroid Today: How to Watch

by Shelby Scott
(Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

In efforts to determine how to best protect our planet from any potentially devasting asteroids, NASA has devised a plan to purposely crash a spacecraft into a non-threatening asteroid named Dimorphos. After weeks of preparation, the spacecraft finally launches today. And we have all the information you need on how and when to watch.

Known as the Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART), NASA’s spacecraft will slam into the far-away asteroid at an unimaginable 14,000 miles per hour. The goal of the launch is to see whether the craft can change the asteroid’s orbit, rather than simply destroying the rock entirely.

According to The Verge, DART’s impact is scheduled for 7:14 p.m. EST, however, NASA plans to begin streaming the event at 6 p.m. this evening.

The live stream of the spacecraft’s impact is available to view on NASA’s website or on their YouTube channel. Outsiders can also tune in to the milestone event on the space agency’s Twitter and Facebook pages. The outlet also encourages interested viewers to check out NASA’s live stream on their soon-to-be updated report later this evening.

Viewers interested in watching the event without commentary can check out NASA’s media channel. There, the agency will have a feed of pictures from the impacting spacecraft beginning at 5 p.m. EST.

Elena Adams, DART mission systems engineer, spoke about what we will see in the footage later tonight. She said, “What you’re seeing on the ground is something that is probably 45 seconds late, but that is still amazing because an image is coming in every second.”

NASA Hopes DART Will Help Prevent Potential Mass Destruction

Before NASA actually streams DART’s asteroidal impact, the agency shared its vision for the mission.

Long before its Monday night impact, DART was originally launched last year in tandem with a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Since then, NASA has been guiding the spacecraft toward the 530-foot wide space rock using multiple trajectory correction maneuvers. During its final approach though, DART is on its own. At that time, it will utilize an inbuilt autonomous guidance system. That system is in charge of getting the craft to its destination some 7 million miles away from Earth.

Nancy Chabot, the coordination lead for DART at Johns Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory, spoke about what could potentially happen on Earth if an asteroid were to ever strike.

“This would be regionally devastating over a populated area,” Chabot explained, meaning, “a city, a state, or a country.”

She added, “So you might not be talking global extinction, but you still want to be able to prevent this if you could.”

As stated, the entire point of the DART mission is redirection, not demolition. Chabot emphasized that distinction when she revealed that the craft impacting Dimorphos is actually pretty small.

“You’re talking about something the size of a golf cart running into something the size of a stadium. So you can see that this is all about a small nudge.”

That being said, NASA is clearly depending on speed and velocity, rather than size, to carry out their intriguing new mission.