A NASA test that looks like a Hollywood film: On Monday, an asteroid is to be blown up – for test purposes. Read here what this test is supposed to bring us and where you can experience the spectacle live.

A rocket hits an asteroid. The force of the explosion pushes him away from a life-threatening and apocalyptic impact on Earth, saving billions of people. This is not a scene from Hollywood movies like Armageddon, but could possibly become reality.

More on the topic: Exercise for emergencies – Full simulation: NASA prepares for asteroid impact

DART stands for “Double Asteroid Redirection Test”. NASA is trying to use a probe to crash into an asteroid to change its orbit.

Specifically, the space agency has chosen the asteroid Dimorphus as its target. It orbits as a kind of moon around the even larger asteroid Didymos.

In November 2021, the “Falcon 9” rocket was launched and shot the DART probe into space. Since then she has been on the journey to Dimorphus. However, NASA emphasizes that this is just a test: the asteroid is not currently racing towards Earth, nor does it pose a threat.

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To keep it that way, the expected orbit after the explosion has been calculated so that both asteroids continue to pose no threat to Earth.

NASA is using DART to try to find out how the earth could be protected from approaching asteroids. Almost 66 million years ago, an asteroid impact on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula caused the dinosaurs to become extinct. Most researchers now agree on this. The impact was followed by a series of devastating disasters: earthquakes, fires and a huge tidal wave that is said to have reached the United States.

After the impact, Dimorphos’ approximately 12-hour orbit is expected to be at least 73 seconds shorter and possibly up to 10 minutes shorter. So the route of the celestial body could change. With the mission, which costs around 330 million euros, NASA is testing a way to defend our planet against dangerous asteroids for the first time – similar to the Hollywood blockbuster “Armageddon” from 1998.

There are currently around 27,000 celestial bodies such as asteroids in the vicinity of our planet. Almost 10,000 of these have a diameter of more than 140 meters – and thus the potential to destroy a large part of the earth.

Asteroid impacts are not uncommon on Earth: it was not until March 2022 that Earth was hit by a smaller asteroid. Since this was only two meters in diameter, the impact had no consequences.

Anyone who doesn’t want to miss the spectacle of the DART mission can be there live from Monday to Tuesday night: Nasa is streaming the probe’s arrival on Dimorphus via its website and on YouTube.

It is currently planned that the live stream will begin on Monday at 11:30 p.m. German time (5:30 p.m. ET in the eastern United States). A short time later, at 01:14 German time (19:14 ET in the eastern USA), the probe is supposed to impact Dimorphus – and change its orbit.

However, people on Earth can only see the exact course of the impact shortly beforehand: Because the probe traveling with it has only one camera – and according to NASA, it is incredibly difficult to target or even steer such a flying object.

Whether we can protect the earth from asteroids in this way remains to be seen. In 2024, the “Hera” mission of the European Space Agency Esa will start to examine the effects of the impact more closely.

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