- NASA is going to the movies, but this time for real, as it prepares to test its Armageddon ground defense system.
The system will be tested by NASA on Monday, September 24, in scenes reminiscent of movies like Armageddon, Deep Impact and Judgment Day.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is the system NASA will use to try to redirect an asteroid that is orbiting another moon known as Dimorphos, in a scene straight out of Hollywood.
DART launched last November and headed toward the asteroid at 14,000 mph (22,500 km/h) and will impact the asteroid today about seven million miles (11 million kilometers) from Earth.
Although neither pose any danger to Earth, NASA has deemed it necessary to conduct such a test to allow Earth to protect itself in the event of such a threat. Many scientists believe that an asteroid colliding with Earth wiped out the dinosaurs, and NASA is determined to try to protect humans from such an extinction event.
DART is about the size of a car and will impact the asteroid, which is about the size of two Statues of Liberty, around 7:14 pm Eastern Time (23:14 GMT and 24:14 CET).
NASA will livestream the event to anyone awake at that time of night, with the plan to redirect the asteroid’s orbit. NASA believes that, should an asteroid endanger Earth, the ability to change its trajectory will be key to our survival.
The event will be observed from satellites and from the James Webb telescope, while a European Space Agency mission called Hera arrives in four years to study the surface of Dimorphos and measure its mass.
Few asteroids are thought to pose a risk to Earth, but NASA’s Thomas Zurbuchen says, “I guarantee you if you wait long enough, there will be an object.”
NASA scientists don’t know what the asteroid is made of and therefore don’t know what DART’s impact will be. If the mission fails as a result of a miscalculation, they will have another opportunity to test the system in two years.
The world will be watching as NASA goes to the movies to test the Armageddon ground defense system.