This will be the first-ever test of a true planetary defense system. The Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) project involves targeting the asteroid known as Didymos and a much smaller rock that orbits it, deemed “Didymoon.” If achieved, the mission will punch it off its course. The impact event will be in October 7, 2022. Both rocks will be already seven million miles away from the planet at their closest point, serving only at tests objects without being a real treath for Earth. If an asteroid that big were to rocket into the Earth at a typical speed of nearly 19 miles per second, it could potentially wreck an entire region of the globe.
“We will better understand whether this technique can be used even for larger asteroids, giving us certainty we could protect our home planet if needed,” ESA’s Hera project scientist Michael Küppers explained in a statement the spacecraft will employ the “NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT-C) solar electric propulsion system,” which uses a solar electric propulsion system to power the aircraft through space.