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.
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USA TODAY reached out to the user who shared the claim for comment.
Asteroid was not dangerous
Dimorphos, the asteroid NASA targeted, was not a threat to Earth.
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.
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.
Our fact-check sources:
Michael Buckley, Sept. 28, Email interview with USA TODAY
National Public Radio, Sept. 27, This is what NASA's spacecraft saw just seconds before slamming into an asteroid
NASA, accessed Sept. 27, NASA’s DART Mission Hits Asteroid in First-Ever Planetary Defense Test
NASA, accessed Sept. 27, Planetary Defense Frequently Asked Questions
NASA, accessed Sept. 27, DART Team Confirms Orbit of Targeted Asteroid
NASA, accessed Sept. 27, DART Sets Sights on Asteroid Target
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: No, NASA did not block an asteroid from hitting Earth