Here’s Why NASA Just Crashed a Spacecraft Into an Asteroid

One of the most common doomsday scenarios is an asteroid crashing into Earth. That’s what (probably) killed the dinosaurs, after all. We’re not in immediate danger of getting killed by an asteroid, but NASA still tried knocking out a random passing space rock — and it was successful in doing so.

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART for short, reached its most exciting stage yesterday. The test had the aim of intercepting an asteroid called Dimorphos. The spacecraft launched by NASA was quickly zipping at 14,000 mph, until it finally struck, and redirected, the asteroid on September 26th at 7:14 PM ET.

The asteroid itself wasn’t threatening Earth at all. It was actually a small asteroid that was orbiting a bigger one, Didymos, as a satellite, and while both were close to Earth, they weren’t currently heading over to destroy our planet from an impact. So why did NASA strike it? Basically, just to see if we would be able to successfully avert armageddon if we actually need to knock out something that’s coming towards us in the future.

A catastrophic asteroid strike hasn’t happened in modern history, and we don’t know of any asteroid currently heading to Earth, but it’s good to know that if, and when, it does happen, we have the capabilities to intercept it and do something about it. Now comes the more important part: was it successful? The asteroid was stricken, but we remain to know if that impact did something significant. Scientists are expecting the asteroid to change its orbit and move faster — we remain to see if the actual change matches the computer models.

Exciting times for mankind, indeed — we might be able to successfully save the world if an asteroid threatens it.

Source: The Verge