NASA spacecraft to collide with asteroid to study planetary defense

DART spacecraft
(Image credit: NASA)

NASA is planning to smash a spacecraft into an asteroid 6.5 million miles away from Earth on Monday, in a study of one method of planetary defense.

The collision will test "whether deflecting a space rock could one day protect Earth from a potentially catastrophic impact," and the mission is the first of its kind, reports NBC News. The DART mission (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) is targeting a space rock called Dimorphos, which measures 525 feet across, and will send a spacecraft barreling toward the asteroid at 15,000 mph. Telescopes will determine whether Dimorphos was nudged out of its regular orbit, which could be a lifesaving feat if a major asteroid ever approached Earth.

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