NASA wants you to become a planetary defender with the DART asteroid mission

Artist's rendition of the DART spacecraft smashing into Dimorphos.
NASA is about to launch a spacecraft in order to test an experimental way to deflect near Earth objects. You can also participate by testing your own planetary defense knowledge.

Double Asteroid Redirection Test ( DART) is a mission of the space agency that aims to test a "kinetic impedor" technique for deflecting any comet or asteroid that may otherwise impact Earth.

The mission could launch as soon as Nov. 23, and is designed to target a binary near-Earth object called Didymos with its moonlet Dimorphos. In an attempt to force Dimorphos onto a different path, the DART spacecraft will strike it head-on. This will demonstrate that this technology can be used to avoid future impact threats.

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To determine your readiness to take the DART mission quiz, you can go online and complete it. This five-question quiz will test your knowledge about asteroids, NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office and the DART mission.

After you have completed the quiz, you will receive a digital certificate certifying that you are ready to become a planetary defense on NASA's DART mission. Download your certificate and planetary defense badge now to share it on social media with the hashtags #PlanetaryDefender & #DARTMission.

DART's mission will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 1:20 AM EST (0620 GMT, Nov. 23, at 10:20 PM EST) from Vandenberg Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E), California. DART arrived at Vandenberg Space Force Base Oct. 2 and has been undergoing final prelaunch checks and tests before its flight.

The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Maryland built and managed the DART spacecraft. It will intentionally impact Dimorphos at speeds up to 4.1 miles per hour (6.6 km/s) or 14,760 mph (23,760 kph). This will cause the moonlet's orbital speed change by a fractional percent, changing Didymos' orbit.

Asteroid systems, which are currently located 6.8 million miles (11,000,000 kilometers) away from Earth, do not pose any threat to our planet. NASA will however use ground-based telescopes in order to measure and observe any changes in the asteroid systems following the DART impact. This will allow NASA to determine if this technology can be used in the future to deflect potentially dangerous near-Earth asteroids.