SpaceX and NASA have announced that their Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is finally set to take off on 23 November. Plans for the collision test have been in place since 2019 and was originally set for a June 2021 launch from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
DART is an ambitious plan to test out if we can change the course of an asteroid heading in Earth’s direction by smashing a satellite into it. SpaceX tweeted that they’ve completed static fire test for the Falcon 9 rocket, and is aiming to launch the satellite on Tuesday at 10:21PM PT.
NASA will intentionally crash the DART spacecraft into an asteroid to see if that is an effective way to change its course, should an Earth-threatening asteroid be discovered in the future
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 19, 2021
DART is targeting a binary asteroid with two bodies called Didymos, which is the Greek word for “twin”. The larger asteroid has a diameter of 780 metres, while the smaller body that is orbiting it (known as Dimorphos, or Didymos B) is 160 metres in size. The spacecraft is expected to collide with the asteroid on 2 October 2022 and has an estimated cost of US$69 million (~RM288 million).
Don’t worry if the test fails though, as Didymos was never Earth-bound and would pass by our planet safely in between 2022 and 2024. That being said, NASA has detected at least 23 objects in space that could potentially collide with Earth within the next 100 years. This means that humanity eventually would need to figure out a defense system to prevent potential impacts that could cause unimaginable damage or worse.