NASA To Test If Movies About Diverting Deadly Asteroids Headed For Earth Were Bullshit
It's science fiction come to life.
NASA's next planetary defense test mission is underway, with the space agency attempting to test whether or not it would be able to change the motion of an asteroid so it doesn't crash into Earth and kill us all. In other words, NASA is putting to test the theories put forth in the disaster movies Armageddon and Deep Impact.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) program is part of NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office, and it will test if a "kinetic impact" can "slightly change" the motion of the asteroid Dimorphous. In a blog post, NASA said there are no asteroids out there that pose a threat to Earth, at least that we know about. The test is being undertaken to determine if blasting it off course with an autonomous vehicle, DART, would be a "viable technique" should a killer asteroid be discovered.
The collision is expected to happen on Monday, September 26. The asteroid, Dimorphous, is about two football fields in size, and the crash will happen at a speed of over 6/km per second, or about 13,000 mph. "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," NASA said.
NASA has already conducted "highly detailed computer simulations" of kinetic impacts on asteroids, but the real test is being conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the method in reality.
More details about the DART program can be found on NASA's website.
In the movie Deep Impact, a group of astronauts land on a massive asteroid and plant nukes inside it in an attempt to blow it up. It doesn't work, and the asteroid gets split in two. The smaller piece crashes into Earth and causes a mega-tsunami, while the surviving astronauts fly into the bigger piece, blowing it up and sacrificing themselves in the process to help save humanity.
Here's to hoping things go better if we ever have to do this for real.
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