Wednesday, 30 November, 2022
E-paper

Nasa spacecraft lining up to smash into an asteroid

In the coming hours, the American space agency will crash a probe into an asteroid.

Nasa's Dart mission wants to see how difficult it would be to stop a sizeable space rock from hitting Earth.

The demonstration is taking place some 11 million km away (7 million miles) on a target called Dimorphos.

The agency says the rock is not currently on a path to hit the Earth, nor will the test accidentally send it in our direction.

The impact is timed for 23:14 GMT, Monday (00:14 BST, Tuesday). Telescopes will be watching from afar, including the new super space observatory James Webb.

Nasa is about to find out. Its idea is simply to smash a spacecraft into one.

The thinking is you would only need to change the rock's velocity by a small amount to alter its path so that it misses Earth - provided you do it far enough in advance.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (Dart) mission will check out this theory with a near-head-on crash into 160m-wide Dimorphos at over 20,000km/h.

This should change its orbit around a much larger asteroid, called Didymos, by just a few minutes every day.

Nasa is promising some spectacular images from the 570kg-Dart probe as it goes in for the hit.