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NASA will slam a spacecraft into an asteroid in a test that could save us all one day

The DART spacecraft is expected to crash into an asteroid nearly 7 million miles from Earth on Sept. 26 in the first test of its kind.

We're about to find out if NASA can change the trajectory of an asteroid.

In the first planetary defense test of its kind, a NASA spacecraft is set to intentionally slam into an asteroid on Sept. 26 more than 6.5 million miles from Earth to see whether it can alter the asteroid's path.

While it sounds like something out of the movie "Armageddon," it's just a test on an asteroid that poses no threat to Earth in case there ever is a future scenario where a giant space rock or a massive comet comes hurtling toward the planet and needs to be diverted.

The collision with the asteroid is expected to happen at 7:14 p.m. ET Monday, with live coverage on NASA TV beginning at 6 p.m. ET.

It will be the culmination of a mission that began with the launch in November 2021 of the unmanned DART spacecraft, which stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test.

The goal of the $325 million mission is to have the spacecraft, which is about the size of a car, crash into a 525-foot wide asteroid called Dimorphos at a relative speed of 14,000 miles per hour.

The camera system on board DART has taken more than 200,000 images to calibrate the craft as it travels millions of miles in space.

"This mission has two parts," Elena Adams, DART mission systems engineer, said in a news conference last month. "The first part is hitting the asteroid, the next part is actually measuring what happens afterward."

Telescopes on all seven continents and in space will be used to measure how much the impact shifts the orbit of Dimorphos.

There's also an Italian satellite known as LICIACube that will be flying near the crash and will record images taken from about 25 to 50 miles away from it, according to a news release.

"This is really not about destroying the asteroid or destructing it. We like to call it like a small nudge," Nancy Chabot, the DART coordination lead at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, said on TODAY Monday.