Science | November 20, 2021 6:12 pm

NASA Set to Test New Asteroid-Smashing Program

The planet will be fine either way

Night sky
New frontiers in asteroid destruction.
Chris Henry/Unsplash

At one point in their new book The End: Surviving the World Through Imagined Disasters, Katie Goh takes the reader back to the year 1998, when dueling “we must stop the asteroid” movies played in screens all over the world. Now, we’re back to the days of Deep Impact and Armageddon — though in this case, the mission to an asteroid is real. And, thankfully, the planet is in a lot less danger.

Writing at Space.com, Chelsea Gohd offered more details on the forthcoming mission. On November 24, NASA will send its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (aka DART) into space. Its goal, scheduled to take place next year? Collide with a very specific asteroid in such a way that it changes the asteroid’s orbit.

The asteroid it’s slated to hit is called Dimorphos — and technically, it’s the moon of another asteroid, Didymos. A CNET article about the mission notes that Dimorphos is roughly the same size as the Great Pyramid. This asteroid is never terribly close to Earth, but it’s something that varies as both objects orbit the sun. At their closest, they’re 6 million miles apart; at their most distant, that number increases to 306 million miles.

NASA assured Space.com readers that, whether or not the mission is a success, the asteroid itself poses no danger to the planet. (Hopefully, it won’t lead to more harmful space debris, either.) It seems like dangerous things from space — and how to guard against them — are back in the zeitgeist, for good or for ill.