NASA isn't messing around when it comes to telling asteroids to fuck off. Last week, the space-minded agency announced that its first-ever mission to show planetary defense in the form of asteroid deflection had been approved and would be moving from the concept phase to the preliminary design phase.
"DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) is a critical step in demonstrating we can protect our planet from a future asteroid impact," Andy Cheng of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, co-lead on the DART investigation, said in a press release. "Since we don't know that much about their internal structure or composition, we need to perform this experiment on a real asteroid."
With DART, NASA says, they'll be able to demonstrate how Earth can be protected from asteroid hits by simply altering its flight path. Following NASA's approval in June, an "historic test" of the deflection technique will center on the Didymos system. The asteroid, which is actually a system comprised of Didymos A and the smaller Didymos B, will come close to our increasingly fucked planet in Oct. 2022 and 2024.
DART program scientist Tom Statler said the Didymos system is "perfect" for such a test, which will consist of DART zooming out to Didymos from Earth and using an autonomous targeting system to take aim at Didymos B:
Then the refrigerator-sized spacecraft would strike the smaller body at a speed about nine times faster than a bullet, approximately 3.7 miles per second (6 kilometers per second). Earth-based observatories would be able to see the impact and the resulting change in the orbit of Didymos B around Didymos A, allowing scientists to better determine the capabilities of kinetic impact as an asteroid mitigation strategy.
In other words:
For more on NASA's DART mission, do yourself a favor and read all of this.