NASA is ready to boldly go where no spacecraft has gone before.

The US agency remains on track to crash its Dart spacecraft into a small asteroid on Monday night in its $ 325 million planetary defense test.

The collision is expected to occur at 19:14 EDT, and the Dart will strike a 525-foot asteroid called Dimorphos at 14,000 miles per hour.

Earth is not in danger of being hit by Dimorphos, but the test is intended to provide NASA with information on how to deal with future situations in case an asteroid catastrophe needs to be prevented.

“That’s why we’re testing,” said Associated Press, NASA Program Director Andrea Riley. “We want to do it now, not when needed.”

The dart was launched into space last November. Its collision with Dimorphos will occur approximately 7 million miles from Earth.

“It’s really about bending the asteroid, not ripping it apart,” said AP planetary scientist Nancy Chabot, whose mission is at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. – It won’t blow up the asteroid. He won’t break it down into many pieces.

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Dimorphos orbits the 2,500-foot asteroid Didymos every 11 hours and 55 minutes. The collision is expected to cut the time by 10 minutes.

In a real emergency, NASA would likely need its spacecraft to strike the menacing asteroid at least 5 years before reaching Earth – and potentially more than a decade earlier, Chabot said.

“These are science-fiction books and really clich├ęd episodes of StarTrek from when I was a kid and now they’re real,” said Tom Statler, NASA program scientist, according to AP.

Scientists initially discovered the larger Didymos in 1996, and believe its rapid rotation eventually caused the asteroid’s moon to detach, creating Dimorphos.

Like the smaller structure, Didymos is not considered a risk of hitting Earth. Scientists believe that there will be no asteroid that threatens Earth for at least the next century.

“These dangers are real, and what makes this time special is that we can do something about it,” said NASA’s head of science mission Thomas Zurbuchen.

With News Wire services

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