We all love disaster movies, right? Armageddon, Volcano, Independence Day, they’re just good fun. NASA is working on ways to prevent one from ever happening in real life, and the latest test of Earth’s defences sounds like something Roland Emmerich himself would think of.
The Guardian reports that NASA’s DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test), an unmanned spacecraft that cost $330 million, will finally make its planned collision with an asteroid on September 27. The DART will not survive the collision, but that’s part of the point. Scientists are looking to see what protective measures we can take if things get a bit cataclysmic action movie and a giant rock is hurtling towards the planet.
“We know asteroids have hit us in the past. These impacts are a natural process and they are going to happen in the future. We would like to stop the worst of them,” Professor Alan Fitzsimmons, a member of DART’s team and astronomer at Queen’s University Belfast, says. “The problem is that we have never tested the technology which will be needed to do that. That is the purpose of DART.”
Dimorphos is the target, a small asteroid only 170m in diameter. The hope is that DART puts the object on a different trajectory, thus telling everyone here that bashing something is an effective solution to avoid catastrophe.
DART’s mission started in November 2021. At time of writing, that’s ten months ago. Sadly, science fiction movies like Deep Impact and 2012 appear to have stretched the truth on just how long these processes take. Alas, it’s still reassuring that we’ll have some defence from ending up like the dinosaurs.
A small Italian satellite called LICIACube will capture photographic evidence of DART’s crash, requiring nobody to make any noble sacrifices for the greater good. Have a look at the best alien movies for more ways we should be ready.