Today, NASA will deliberately crash a spacecraft into a near-Earth asteroid to try and change its motion and direction through space. A first-of-its-kind maneuver. Here’s how you can watch it live.
Earlier this month, Space Explored shared that NASA’s DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission had officially laid eyes on its target, an asteroid called Dimorphos, almost two football fields in diameter. Now we’re just hours away from the scheduled collision.
The crash is planned for 7:14 p.m. ET (11:14 p.m. UTC) Monday. NASA will begin live coverage on NASA TV roughly an hour before, starting at 6 p.m. ET (10:00 p.m. UTC).
You can also view the event in real-time with ground-based telescopes on Virtual Telescope Project’s website. The live stream begins at 6:30 p.m. ET (22:30 GMT).
What is DART?
According to NASA, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, “is the first-ever mission dedicated to investigating and demonstrating one method of asteroid deflection by changing an asteroid’s motion in space through kinetic impact.”
Since its launch in November of last year, the spacecraft has spent just over 9 months catching up to its target. A moonlet called Dimorphos of the non-Earth threatening asteroid Didymos located approximately 6.8 million miles from Earth.
Today, DART will impact the moonlet Dimorphos at about 6.6km/s (14,768 mph) to change its orbit within the Didymos binary asteroid system. But why not send the spacecraft hurtling toward the large asteroid itself? Well, a few reasons. Scientists predict that by crashing into the smaller moonlet, and not the larger asteroid Didymos, they can more significantly change its orbit through the gravitational pull that the moonlet has. The slightest change in the moonlet’s orbiting motion will offset the Didymos’ path.
Why is DART so important?
The mission will be the first to test a “kinetic impactor” method of planetary defense, which will determine if crashing a high-speed spacecraft into an asteroid can change its trajectory and possibly save Earth one day.