NASA is crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid to test a plan that could one day save Earth from catastrophe

On Sept. 26, 2022, NASA plans to change an asteroid’s orbit.

The large binary asteroid Didymos and its moonlet Dimorphos currently pose no threat to Earth. But by crashing a 1,340-pound (610-kilogram) probe into Didymos’ moon at a speed of approximately 14,000 mph (22,500 kph), NASA is going to complete the world’s first full-scale planetary defense mission as a proof of concept. This mission is called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART.

I am a scholar who studies space and international security, and it is my job to ask what the likelihood really is of an object crashing into the planet – and whether governments are spending enough money to prevent such an event.

To find the answers to these questions, one has to know what near-Earth objects are out there. To date, NASA has tracked only an estimated 40% of the bigger ones. Surprise asteroids have visited Earth in the past and will undoubtedly do so in the future. Experiments like the DART mission may help prepare humanity for such an event.