A collision in space is scheduled for 2022, and NASA scientists are prepared to study the results.

The U.S. space agency’s November 24 Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) has a target: collide with an asteroid known as Dimorphos.

If DART, launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, successfully alters the asteroid’s speed and direction, NASA scientists may have a tool to use should an asteroid be on a collision course with Earth.

The DART spacecraft is expected to reach the asteroid system between September and October 2022.

Illustration of spacecraft in space near asteroids (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL)
Illustration of NASA’s DART spacecraft with asteroids (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL)

“DART is turning science fiction into science fact and is a testament to NASA’s proactivity and innovation for the benefit of all,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said November 24.

NASA scientists emphasize that they have not found any imminent asteroid threat to the Earth but want to be prepared for the possibility of a future collision.

“Our goal is to find any possible impact, years to decades in advance, so it can be deflected with a capability like DART that is possible with the technology we currently have,” Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA, said at the time of the launch.

The European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency also contributed to the NASA DART mission.

Rocket streaking in the night sky (U.S. Space Force/Michael Peterson)
A SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying NASA’s first planetary defense test mission, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), launches November 24 from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. (U.S. Space Force/Michael Peterson)