In an effort to avoid the human race going the same way as dinosaurs, NASA has a cunning plan.
The space agency wants to intentionally smash a spacecraft into an asteroid in a dress rehearsal of saving the planet from a hypothetical asteroid apocalypse, according to a blog post in MIT Technology Review.
Let's face it, we don't want to disappear like the dinosaurs, which is why NASA plans to launch a mission to test out methods of potentially deflecting an Earthbound asteroid, should one be detected in the future. Another brilliant acronym - Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) - is scheduled to launch on 24 November and, after a year in transit, it'll arrive in the vicinity of its target: Dimorphos, which is a stadium-size asteroid that orbits a much larger asteroid, known as Didymos.
This mission involves slamming into Dimorphos at the phenomenal speed of 4 miles per second (6.5 km/s) with the DART spacecraft, which is the size of a car and weighs roughly one-third of a ton. If all goes according to expectations, Dimorphos' nearly 12-hour orbit around Didymos will be modified by a few minutes.
To check to see if the collision worked, another mission from the European Space Agency (called Hera), five years later, will examine the aftermath to see if the plan worked. While the impact is expected to have a minor effect on the asteroid, it should create a sufficient enough adjustment to prove that deflecting an asteroid from Earth's path in the future is possible. By any measure, that would be good news.