NASA Launches Defense Program To Protect Earth

( There have been so many movies over the last few decades about the possibility of an asteroid destroying the planet – and while it’s a great storyline for movies and TV shows, it’s actually a very real threat.

That’s why NASA, the North American Space Agency, is working on ideas to prevent such a catastrophe and to protect the planet from giant rocks hurtling through our solar system.

A new spacecraft that is designed to crash into an asteroid some 11 million miles away from earth, which could pave the way for new protective technology, just sent back its first photographs from space.

Known as the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), this program saw NASA launch the device into space to see how capable it is of redirecting the path of the asteroid. The idea is that if an asteroid is heading towards our planet in the near future, we could deploy weapons that push the asteroid on a new trajectory that will miss the earth.

Two weeks after blasting off from California in November, the spacecraft opened up its cameras for the first time. It was two million miles away from the earth, and send back a photograph of roughly one dozen stars. The incredible photo, which you can see here, is one of many photos we are likely to receive in the coming weeks and months.

The spacecraft is expected to complete its journey in September of this year.

DART is currently traveling towards the asteroid Didymos, which is currently in between the Mars and Earth orbits. It is roughly 740 meters in size.

The spacecraft will not be attempting to redirect this specific asteroid, however. Instead, it will attempt to change the orbital trajectory of other rocks that are orbiting the asteroid – a potentially less dangerous effort that gives scientists more of an idea of what is required to change the orbit and trajectory of these bodies.

Once DART crashes into the rock orbiting Didymos, telescopes will monitor their trajectory to see if it works.

We’ll report back when more photographs are released.