Fact check: False claim that NASA blocked an asteroid from hitting Earth




  • In Business
  • 2022-09-28 20:39:35Z
  • By USA TODAY

The claim: NASA just blocked an asteroid from hitting Earth

NASA successfully crashed a spacecraft into an asteroid on Sept. 26.

This was part of an ongoing project called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, which is investigating  how to prevent dangerous comets or asteroids from hitting the Earth - or at least lessen the damage if they do.

In the wake of the test, a Sept. 26 post went viral about the mission, claiming, "NASA just blocked a whole asteroid from hitting the earth." Over 3,000 Facebook users shared the post within 20 hours.

But, the claim is false.

Although NASA did crash a spacecraft into an asteroid, that asteroid was not at risk of hitting Earth.

USA TODAY reached out to the user who shared the claim for comment.

An illustration shows the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) that will help determine if intentionally crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid is an effective way to change its course.
An illustration shows the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) that will help determine if intentionally crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid is an effective way to change its course.  

Asteroid was not dangerous

Dimorphos, the asteroid NASA targeted, was not a threat to Earth.

NASA said the asteroid was not a threat many times on its website, where the  agency published several updates about the mission.

Michael Buckley, the senior communications manager for the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, confirmed this via email. The lab worked with NASA on the asteroid project.

More: NASA's DART spacecraft successfully crashes into asteroid in first planetary defense test

The $325 million project is meant to determine whether kinetic impacts, like crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid, could successfully deflect future asteroids.

NASA won't know for weeks - or even months - if the test worked, Buckley said.

If it does, it could one day help block an asteroid from hitting Earth - but that day is not today.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that NASA just blocked an asteroid from hitting Earth. NASA did hit an asteroid on Sept. 26, but it did not pose a threat to Earth. The collision was part of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, where scientists are learning whether kinetic impacts could deflect an asteroid from hitting Earth in the future.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: No, NASA did not block an asteroid from hitting Earth

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