NASA to Use Spacecraft as Battering Ram to Crash Into Asteroid

by Shelby Scott

Scientists have rapidly expanded our knowledge of outer space thanks to massive growth in technology over the last few decades. And now, NASA plans to use that technology as a battering ram.

According to the New York Post, NASA intends to use a spacecraft later this month as a potential planetary defense method that could one day save our planet from destruction. Deemed the Double Asteroid Redirect Test spacecraft, otherwise known as DART, scientists plan to aim the craft at an asteroid called Dimorphos. Essentially, they hope to use DART as a battering ram. Per the outlet, the initiative is an international collaboration aiming to protect Earth from future asteroid impacts. The event takes place on September 26th.

In speaking about Dimorphos, NASA said Thursday, “While the asteroid poses no threat to Earth, this is the world’s first test of the kinetic impact technique, using a spacecraft to deflect an asteroid for planetary defense.”

DART was initially launched in November 2021 at the same time as a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Over the next few weeks, NASA plans to enact several trajectory correction maneuvers. These maneuvers will then allow DART to catch up with the Dimorphos asteroid in preparation for its Sept. 26t impact. The final maneuver takes place on Sept. 25th, with NASA getting the spacecraft within 2 kilometers of the target asteroid. From there, it’s up to DART to correct itself before, hopefully, blowing the space rock out of its typical orbit around the other half of the double-asteroid system it shares with Didymos.

In theory, if DART blows into the targeted space rock at a whirlwind 15,000 miles per hour, then NASA will have tested its kinetic impactor Earth defense theory.

Why NASA Has Targeted Didymos and Dimorphos:

If Didymos and its moonlet Dimorphos don’t pose any threat to Earth, then why has NASA made it DART’s target? More than anything, it all has to do with speed.

Per the outlet, asteroids typically move around the sun at 20 miles per second. In comparison, Dimorphos orbits the much larger Didymos at a more imaginable, singular foot per second. As such, the latter is much easier to calculate for a trial compared to 20 miles per second.

Further, the intention of the DART initiative isn’t to completely demolish the little asteroid. NASA only intends to readjust its orbit. If the mission comes through successfully, scientists aim to apply the same “battering ram” theory on much larger, more threatening asteroids.

Speaking about the upcoming test, Andy Rivkin, an astronomer at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory Planetary, said, “The point of a kinetic impactor is you ram your spacecraft into the asteroid you’re worried about, and then you change its orbit around the Sun by doing that.”