As it turns out, Armageddon may have been right. Officials with NASA are taking a page from the Michael Bay film in that on Monday, they'll crash a satellite into an incoming asteroid in the world's first-ever "planetary defense" test. As part of the space agency's DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) program, a craft the size of a vending machine is set to crash into an asteroid scientists have called Dimorphos.
Located some seven million miles from Earth, officials hope the craft's impact is able to use enough kinetic energy to upset the asteroid from its flight path. It should be noted Dimorphos, according to scientists, isn't on track to collide into Earth and DART is simply a test.
If all goes to plan, the impact should take place around 7:14 p.m. Eastern on Monday, September 26.
"It's a difficult job," NASA JPL's Julie Bellerose, leader of the DART spacecraft navigation team said in a statement. "A big part of what the navigation team is working on is getting DART to a 9-mile-wide (15-kilometer-wide) box in space 24 hours before impact."
Also part of the test is the Italian Space Agency's LICIACube, a camera that is set to take pictures of the event scientists can then use to assess results.
"We are working with ASI to get LICIACube to within 25 to 50 miles (40 to 80 kilometers) of Dimorphos just two to three minutes after DART's impact – close enough to get good images of the impact and ejecta plume, but not so close LICIACube could be hit by ejecta," added JPL's LICIACube navigation lead Dan Lubey.
Dimorphos orbits around an even larger asteroid named Didymos, and scientists hope to accelerate the former's 11.9-minute orbit by several minutes.