Smashing a spacecraft into an asteroid

Emma Elsworthy in the Crikey Worm this morning:

The nerds at NASA are going to smash a spacecraft into an asteroid hurtling through space this morning. It’s going to happen about 11 million kilometres from where you’re sitting now — and you can watch a livestream from 8am. The recipient of our pummelling will be a 163-metre-wide asteroid called Dimorphos that is orbiting a larger, 780-metre-wide asteroid.

It won’t be one guy and a joystick controlling the trajectory (how cool would that be?) — NASA says software will determine the point of impact. There will be a nail-biting moment in the last 50 minutes, however, when the software will need to differentiate between the larger asteroid and Dimorphos, as BBC writes.

Assuming all goes well, the livestream will cut off when the spacecraft hits, but luckily a mini satellite released from the spacecraft a few days ago will record the whole shebang from 50km away. Success will be measured by whether Dimorphos’ orbit (about 12 hours at the moment) is shortened by 10 minutes. But the chances are slim that we’ll actually need to do this in future — scientists reckon we’ve identified 95% of all monster asteroids that could cause a global calamity. The other 5%, however…

Update

They did the thing.