NASA wants to throw DART at an asteroid

It’s rare, but large asteroids hit the Earth every now and then — sometimes with devastating results.

Should we ever see one coming, what’s the plan? Send the experienced cast of “Armageddon” into space?

NASA isn’t ready to go the Hollywood route just yet, but one of the agency’s ideas is something that might not seem too far removed from a sci-fi flick.

On Friday, NASA announced that the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is going from concept development to the primary design phase. The test aims to “demonstrate what’s known as the kinetic impactor technique — striking the asteroid to shift its orbit” the agency said.

DART, a refrigerator-sized spacecraft, would target the binary asteroid system Didymos — Greek for “twin” — which will have a distant approach to Earth in October 2022 and again in 2024. Didymos A is about a half-mile in size, with its twin, Didymos B, about 530 feet.

“A binary asteroid is the perfect natural laboratory for this test,” said DART program scientist Tom Statler. “The fact that Didymos B is in orbit around Didymos A makes it easier to see the results of the impact, and ensures that the experiment doesn’t change the orbit of the pair around the sun.”

DART would crash into the smaller asteroid at a speed about nine times faster than that of a bullet, about 3.7 miles per second.

“DART is a critical step in demonstrating we can protect our planet from a future asteroid impact,” DART invesitgation co-lead Andy Cheng said. “Since we don’t know that much about their internal structure or composition, we need to perform this experiment on a real asteroid.”

READ ---  Jim Parsons Says 'Young Sheldon' Star Iain Armitage Is 'Inspirational to Watch'