PHILADELPHY (CBS) – What was once thought to be nothing but sci-fi material is actually going to happen in space on Monday night. For the first time in human history, humanity can deliberately move a natural celestial body in space.
NASA will try to hit the asteroid with a spaceship in the hope of changing its course, all in the name of planetary defense.
NASA’s DART mission is expected to collide with the asteroid at 19:14 EST on Monday after launch 10 months ago. NASA will be broadcasting the event live, starting at 6:00 PM with a briefing from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.
What we’ve only seen in the movies could happen on Monday.
“We’re moving an asteroid,” said Tom Statler, NASA DART scientist. “We are changing the movement of the natural celestial body in space. Humanity has never done this before.
To do so, NASA hopes to smash the spacecraft into an asteroid nearly 7 million miles from Earth.
About the size of an automaton, the NASA DART spacecraft will fly 14,000 miles per hour when it collides with Dimorphos, a small moon orbiting the asteroid Didymos.
“The moon they are trying to strike is only 525 feet across,” said CBS News space analyst Bill Harwood. “So if you think of the Statue of Liberty, think of the pyramids. You know it’s a bit on that scale. “
The impact will not destroy Dimorphos, but NASA intends to knock him off course by up to 10 minutes.
“It’s a very small change, but it’s proof of concept,” said Harwood. “They want to prove that you can deflect an asteroid if they ever spot one heading towards Earth on a collision course. The chances of an asteroid hitting Earth with a devastating impact are remote.
Evidence suggests that one or more asteroids caused the massive extinction of Earth’s dinosaurs.
Scientists say they don’t know of any asteroid that will hit Earth in the next century, but they’re always searching.
“That’s something we need to do,” said NASA Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson, “so we know what’s there and we know what’s coming, and we have enough time to prepare for it.”
NASA says the DART mission is only the first in a series of experiments that will better prepare humanity to save the world from unknown threats.
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