DART helping to protect Earth from off planet threats

29 September 2022

It could be argued we’re not doing as much as we could to avert potential catastrophes on the planet. Climate change and global conflict would be two examples. When it comes countering possible threats from outside though, some progress is being made.

The test of an asteroid defence system, whereby a NASA probe was sent to collide with Dimorphos, a celestial object, to effect a change, albeit minor, in its trajectory, is one instance.

NASA did not send this probe to observe this asteroid or even scoop some samples from its surface to bring back to Earth, as other missions have done. The agency dispatched the spacecraft with the explicit hope of crashing it and changing the asteroid’s trajectory. This is a test run, but a future version of this mission could save Earth from a catastrophic impact by deflecting an asteroid on a collision course. A little bit of practice never hurts.

While Dimorphos does not pose a threat to Earth — at least not at the moment — another asteroid such as the one that brought about the demise of the dinosaurs, might in the future.