Mechanical engineer explains NASA’s plan to nudge asteroid

Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 3:48 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - NASA is intentionally crashing one its spacecraft Monday afternoon. This in an effort to see how well we might be able to protect Earth in the future.

Lisa Wu is the Deputy Mechanical Engineer for DART, which stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test.

And that last part - test - is something she really emphasized when chatting with us on the WDBJ7+ Digital News Desk.

That’s because this asteroid is far from us and not an impact concern. But, as Wu explained, the goal is to test this method they think will work to scoot a little asteroid off its orbit around a larger asteroid.

“We are only giving it a slight bump,” she said. “But this is to ensure that we have the capabilities to navigate and guide the spacecraft to the asteroid. This is also a two-fold mission. After we hit this asteroid, that’s when the science really begins. That’s when we can observe from earth the change that we have caused on Morphos, the smaller asteroid.”

Sometime Monday afternoon the spacecraft will become autonomous, meaning it’s going to be getting itself the last bit of the way to this asteroid.

“Today’s a little bittersweet because my work is going to explode on an asteroid, but that’s ok!” she laughed. “It’s for humanity, for the science. I do have Saving the World on my resume, so it’s a good time!”

They anticipate impact sometime after 7 p.m. eastern Monday. And so yes, this is just a test. But NASA thinks if this method works, it could be a tool deployed to move asteroids that might impact Earth. Nothing, however, is forecast for at least the next 100 years.

You can watch the NASA livestream starting at 6 p.m. here.