The final preparations are being made by Nasa to launch the first planetary defense mission. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test, (Dart), is a joint mission of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and Nasa. It is due to launch on 23 Nov.
Dart will collide with Dimorphos the asteroid and alter its orbit to test its ability to detect an asteroid in collision with Earth.
Dimorphos measures 160m across and is approximately the same size as the Great Pyramid at Giza. It orbits its parent rock once an hour and is a moon of the larger asteroid Didymos.
At 6.6 km/s, Dart and Dimorphos will collide in October 2022. This will alter the velocity of the asteroid by approximately 0.4 mm/s and alter its orbital period by around 10 minutes.
Small changes to an Earth-heading Asteroid can be enough to save you from disaster if they are made early enough.
Dart is one of two parts in a larger mission called the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment mission (Aida). The European Space Agency's Hera mission is the second. Hera, which is scheduled to launch in October 2024 will examine the effects of the collision from closeup.
Dart will launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.