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Illustration of the DART spacecraft and the Italian Space Agency’s LICIACube prior to impact at the Didymos binary system (Image from NASA/Johns Hopkins, APL/Steve Gribben)

On Nov. 24, NASA launched the first spacecraft sent to hit and redirect a harmless, near-Earth asteroid. It’s called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). The trip takes 10 months, but if it is successful, NASA will be able to deflect dangerous asteroids plummeting towards Earth years in advance.

  • Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA and program executive for its Planetary Defense Coordination Office, said his team is “really confident” the spacecraft will hit the asteroid, called Dimorphos, and change its velocity as it orbits another asteroid, Didymos.
  • Congress tasked the Planetary Defense Coordination Office with finding all near-Earth asteroids larger than about 500 feet, according to Johnson, and his office has found about 40% of them so far.
  • Johnson said it would be extremely rare for an asteroid to plummet to Earth and destroy cities but that it could happen.
  • He said NASA’s skilled workforce, partners in the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and allies, including the Italian Space Agency, are helping the complex mission succeed.
  • Johnson said his team will measure the change in the light curve of the asteroid and compare the data with predictive models.

Watch the full interview:

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