A NASA-built spacecraft will deliberately crash into an asteroid as part of a test mission later this month.

The spacecraft, known as the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (Dart), is expected to collide with a 170 meter (560 ft) wide asteroid called Dimorphos at 00:14 UK time on September 27.

Dimorphos is no threat to Earth, but it was chosen to help demonstrate that dangerous incoming rocks can be deflected by intentionally crashing something into them.

Dimorphos orbits Didymos in about 11 hours and 55 minutes, but NASA astronomers are hoping Dart will self-destruct and this time cut about 10 minutes.

NASA said, “Dart’s target asteroid is not a threat to Earth, but it is the perfect test bed to see if this method of deflecting the asteroid – known as the kinetic impactor technique – would be a viable way. to protect our planet in the event of a collision of an asteroid course with the Earth were discovered in the future. “

Dart will go at a speed of approximately 15,000 miles per hour before colliding with Dimorphos, which at that time will be approximately 6.8 million miles from Earth.

Unlike the plot of Bruce Willis’ 1998 blockbuster Armageddon, Dart will be unmanned for the mission, designed to operate completely autonomously.

It will be the first large-scale demonstration of asteroid deflection technology and will be recorded by an Italian Space Agency satellite called Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids.

In 2024, the European Space Agency (ESA) will send its Hera spacecraft on a two-year journey to examine the consequences.

ESA said: “By the time Hera reaches Didymos, in 2026, Dimorphos will have achieved historical significance: the first object in the Solar System to which its orbit has been displaced by human effort in a measurable way.”

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