This illustration depicts NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft prior to impact at the Didymos binary asteroid system.
DART’s target asteroid is the moonlet Dimorphos, which orbits the larger asteroid Didymos; the pair are not a threat to Earth. This asteroid system will be a testing ground to see if intentionally crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid is an effective way to change its course, should an Earth-threatening asteroid be discovered in the future.
The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, manages the DART mission for NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office as a project of the agency’s Planetary Missions Program Office. DART is the world’s first planetary defense test mission, intentionally executing a kinetic impact into Dimorphos to slightly change its motion in space. While the asteroid does not pose any threat to Earth, the DART mission will demonstrate that a spacecraft can autonomously navigate to a kinetic impact on a relatively small asteroid and prove this is a viable technique to deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth if one is ever discovered. DART will reach its target on Sept. 26, 2022.