DART is a mission created to test the idea that shooting a space rock, and hitting it hard enough, will deflect it from its path towards Earth. The best part? We get to watch.
The idea that a big, giant asteroid from space could collide with Earth and cause a whole slew of catastrophic issues for humans — like instant death — sounds like a movie plot. (And it literally is one — Armageddon, anyone?) And while we've seen how fictional scientists would predict and then convince the governing bodies to do something on the big screen (drill, baby, drill!), an Earthbound asteroid is a real cause of concern in real life and doesn’t need to include a “hotshot” crew of people drilling a hole into an asteroid and putting a nuclear bomb in it.
In fact, protecting the Earth from space rocks is something actual scientists are working on at NASA, no nuclear included. They're getting ready to test their defense system — and you can watch.
What is NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART)?
According to NASA, DART, or the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, is "the first-ever mission dedicated to investigating and demonstrating one method of asteroid deflection by changing an asteroid's motion in space through kinetic impact." In layman's terms, DART is a mission created to test the idea of shooting a space rock and hitting it hard enough to deflect it from its path towards Earth.
If there was an asteroid on a path to hit Earth, NASA's plan isn't to destroy it — which, yes, is the plot of the movie Armageddon — but to redirect its path so it won't smash into our planet. DART isn't the name of the defense system, but it's the name NASA has given to the mission that will test if their kinetic impact plan works.
When will NASA test launch its DART mission?
Conditions have lined up in space that will allow NASA to test the plan to redirect an asteroid should the need ever arise. An asteroid called Didymos B was classified as "both a potentially hazardous asteroid and a near-Earth object" when it was first discovered. Thankfully, it's not immediately dangerous.
Didymos B's proximity to Earth makes it the perfect test asteroid to see if NASA's plan to nudge an asteroid off its path will work. "This test will show if we're ready to take on any threatening asteroids that could be headed our way," EarthSky explains.
The mission to impact and move Didymos B will happen on Sept. 26, 2022, at 7:14 pm EST, so mark your calendars.
How to watch the DART's first attempt
Since this will be the world's first attempt, and because it's really cool, the DART mission will be viewable live by the public. Coverage will start at 6 pm EST on Sept. 26 and it will be streamable on NASA's website, but it will also be viewed on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.
For more details about the mission, check out NASA's website.