Rocks are hurling through space right now and Earth is hit by them all the time. Luckily those are smaller rocks, but it’s only a matter of time until a large asteroid comes in contact with Earth again. The last major asteroid impact happened around 66 million years ago! NASA and other space agencies are working together to launch a new mission called DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test). This mission will test the effectiveness of changing an asteroid’s path by slamming a spacecraft into the asteroid!
Here’s an activity that you can complete at home to model the DART mission. Select an object to represent the Earth, an asteroid, and the DART spacecraft.
- Earth Options: Circle of paper, a globe, a box, a chalk drawing of Earth on the sidewalk
- Asteroid Options: Basket ball, soccer ball, other large rolling object
- DART Spacecraft Options: Marble, tennis ball, bouncy ball
Roll the “asteroid” towards “Earth” and roll the “spacecraft” to hit the moving target. How does the collision impact the “asteroid’s” path? Test out different objects to represent the asteroid and spacecraft. Which “spacecrafts” are the most effective? Does the speed of the “spacecraft” make a difference? Is it easier to change the direction of a lighter or heavier “asteroid”?
Here are some resources on the upcoming mission with NASA and the ESA.
5 Steps to Preventing Asteroid Impact: a Random Space Fact Mini-series: Watch these short videos on how scientists find asteroid in the night sky and use that information to predict where they’ll go.
Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART): Learn more about what NASA’s plan to slam its spacecraft into an asteroid.
Hera: Our Planetary Defense Mission: Watch a video describing the European Space Agency’s part of the mission and how it will make measurements for DART’s impact.
Asteroid or Meteor – What’s the difference?: Learn about the terminology of space objects including meteorites, comets, and asteroids.