Here's How NASA Moved a Stadium-Sized Asteroid
After one successful move, they are planning to do it again.
The movie Don't Look Up, directed by Adam McKay, was intended to be a not-too-subtle metaphor about climate change. Instead of a burgeoning ecological crisis, it was a pending astrological crisis. The asteroid in the film was supposed to represent the destabilization of our habitat. But don't worry, scientists were spurred to action about the significant threat in the movie.
No, no. Not the climate. On October 11, NASA announced that its first mission to smash a spacecraft into an asteroid purposefully was successful. The path of the stadium-sized asteroid, named Dimorphos, was dramatically altered after being hit by the spacecraft. This confirms that if an asteroid was heading toward Earth, like in the movie Don't Look Up, we'd be able to avert its path.
In a press conference, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson called the accomplishment "a watershed moment for planetary defense, and a watershed moment for humanity," according to Mashable.
The spacecraft that smashed into the asteroid was 1,300 pounds, moving toward the asteroid at a speed of 14,000 miles per hour. There was no need to use any other tool than the impact of the spacecraft's own force.
"DART has given us some fascinating data about both asteroid properties and the effectiveness of a kinetic impactor as a planetary defense technology," said Nancy Chabot, the DART coordination lead from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, in a press release from NASA. "The DART team is continuing to work on this rich dataset to fully understand this first planetary defense test of asteroid deflection."
Don't get me wrong. I am happy to know that we are capable of moving an asteroid off of its charted course to avoid colossal destruction to Earth. I'm just also hoping that we find this level of success in responding to the climate crisis sometime soon.