NASA is developing the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), first-ever mission that will deflect a near-Earth asteroid.
DART would be NASA’s first mission to demonstrate what’s known as the kinetic impactor technique — striking the asteroid to shift its orbit — to defend against a potential future asteroid impact.
DART is a critical step in demonstrating we can protect our planet from a future asteroid impact.
With DART, we can protect Earth from an asteroid strike with a kinetic impactor by knocking the hazardous object into a different flight path that would not threaten the planet.
The target for DART is an asteroid that will have a distant approach to Earth in October 2022, and then again in 2024.
The asteroid is called Didymos — Greek for “twin” — because it is an asteroid binary system that consists of two bodies: Didymos A, about 780 metres in size, and a smaller asteroid orbiting it called Didymos B, about 160 metres in size.
DART would impact only the smaller of the two bodies, Didymos B. The Didymos system has been closely studied since 2003. The primary body is a rocky S-type object, with composition similar to that of many asteroids.
The composition of its small companion, Didymos B, is unknown, but the size is typical of asteroids that could potentially create regional effects should they impact Earth.
DART is being developed at John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.