NASA prepares to smash spacecraft into asteroid

NASA prepares to smash spacecraft into asteroid

NASA prepares to smash spacecraft into asteroid

NASA is preparing to launch a satellite that will deliberately crash into an asteroid, aiming to alter its course in the first mission of its kind.

Impact should take place in the fall of 2022, when the binary asteroid system is 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometers) from Earth, almost the nearest point they ever get.

The DART probe, a box the size of a large fridge with limousine-sized solar panels on either side, will slam into Dimorphos at just over 15,000 miles an hour (24,000 km per hour), causing a small change in the asteroid’s motion.

The goal is to slightly alter the trajectory of Dimorphos, a “moonlet” around 525 feet (160 meters, or two Statues of Liberty) wide that circles a much larger asteroid called Didymos (2,500 feet in diameter). The pair orbit the Sun together.

There are 10,000 known near Earth asteroids 460 feet in size or greater, but none has a significant chance to hit in the next 100 years. One major caveat – scientists think there are still 15,000 more such objects waiting to be discovered.