Engineering the Cosmos: The NASA DART Mission

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November 24, 2021

By Peter Schwartz and Dr. Ed Lu

Humanity is about to take an important step forward in our ability to protect planet Earth from asteroid impacts. The DART probe (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) will demonstrate a method of changing the velocity of an asteroid, a capability we will one day need when (not if) an asteroid is found to be on a collision course with Earth.

The spacecraft, built by the Applied Physics Laboratory and NASA, will crash into an asteroid with a closure rate of 14,780 MPH, resulting in a tiny change (about one millionth of one percent) of the asteroid’s orbital velocity in space. This is actually sufficient to make an asteroid miss the Earth if carried out many years prior to impact, in effect slightly altering the cosmos to protect our home planet.

What is still missing is a complete mapping of the locations and trajectories of asteroids so that we would know years in advance of an asteroid on a collision course. The good news is that the Vera Rubin Observatory will commence operations in about 2 years and will greatly improve our ability to track asteroids that could hit Earth.

Asteroids have been hitting Earth for billions of years. In fact, asteroids large enough to end human civilization (about 1km in size) have struck Earth thousands of times in the past. This bombardment would inevitably continue into the future were it not for the fact that we humans are developing the technology to deflect asteroids, the astronomy and mathematics to predict impacts, and hopefully the wisdom to continue these endeavours. Our long term survival may depend on it!


Peter Schwartz

Futurist and Author Art of the Long View

Chief Futures Officer, Salesforce

Board Director, Long Now


Dr. Ed Lu

Former NASA Astronaut

Executive Director, Asteroid Institute

Co-Founder, B612 Foundation




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