This evening (Monday, September 26, 2022) at 7:14pm EDT, the NASA DART spacecraft will intentionally crash into an asteroid named Dimorphos – hoping to change it’s course, thus saving the Earth from destruction!
Ok, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. You see, Dimorphos is not actually on course to hit the Earth, and even if it did, it’s only about 500 feet in diameter. 500 feet sounds like a lot if it happens to land on your house, but the asteroid that likely caused the extinction of the dinosaurs was more like 8 miles across.
So Dimorphos isn’t going to destroy humanity. But this test could help save us. In both movies and real-life, our best defense against a humanity-destroying asteroid is the idea that we could “shoot it out of the sky”, but no-one has ever tried. Until now.
And that’s why this event is so important. If there’s ever an asteroid headed towards Earth that we really need to divert off course, I don’t want that to be NASA’s first rodeo. I want them to practice. To test the theory and the tools in a safe environment.
In our work in telecoms, that’s why we have test lines, and a lab environment, so we can verify things work before inconveniencing our subscribers. That’s also why we use maintenance windows – not just for upgrades, but also for tests. If we need to try something important, we want to find a situation where the consequences of failure are limited – so we can refine the process, so everything goes perfectly when it matters most.
Hopefully this is the first test of many, as I’m hoping NASA will hit a homerun when it really matters.
You can watch the asteroid impact live on NASA TV, with coverage starting at 6pm EDT.