NASA’s asteroid-hitting mission is a call to action
NASA crashed a spaceship into an asteroid. But don’t worry, that’s good news. This week’s successful Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is cause both for celebration and for action. To make the mission count for more than a nifty science demonstration, there’s work to be done.
Asteroid collisions with our planet are what’s known as low-probability, high-impact events — much like, say, pandemics. Could-be catastrophes don’t tend to get as much attention as smaller-scale problems with a higher chance of occurring during our lifetimes. NASA’s DART experiment is a welcome departure from this norm: The project sent a vehicle roughly the size of a golf cart careening into a rock roughly the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza, aiming not to annihilate the asteroid but rather to nudge it. By altering the orbit only slightly, NASA showed it can, well, save the world. The asteroid that DART flung itself against this week didn’t pose a threat now or in the foreseeable future, but if we know another asteroid does, we can theoretically push it off course.