Press Release

APL DART Team Prepares for Launch of NASA’s First Planetary Defense Test Mission

Thu, 11/04/2021 - 13:41

Team members of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) have filled the spacecraft with fuel, have performed many of the final tests, and are running rehearsals as they approach DART’s scheduled launch on Nov. 23.

DART will be the world’s first planetary defense test mission, heading for the small moonlet asteroid Dimorphos, which orbits a larger companion asteroid called Didymos, and intentionally crashing into the asteroid to slightly change its orbit. While neither asteroid poses a threat to Earth, DART’s kinetic impact will prove that a spacecraft can autonomously navigate to a target asteroid and kinetically impact it. Then, using Earth-based telescopes to measure the effects of the impact on the asteroid system, the mission will enhance modeling and predictive capabilities to help us better prepare for an actual asteroid threat should one ever be discovered.

“DART will be the first demonstration of the ‘kinetic impactor’ technique in which a spacecraft deliberately collides with a known asteroid at high speed to change the asteroid’s motion in space,” said Lindley Johnson, NASA’s planetary defense officer. “This technique is thought to be the most technologically mature approach for mitigating a potentially hazardous asteroid, and it will help planetary defense experts refine asteroid kinetic impactor computer models, giving insight into how we could deflect potentially dangerous near-Earth objects in the future.”