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NASA Asks Johns Hopkins For Help Protecting Earth From Asteroids

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A team of scientists and engineers from Johns Hopkins have a new mission: save the Earth from an asteroid crash.

In 2013, a meteor the size of a school bus lit up the sky over Russia. Before it hit land it blew up. That explosion injured over 1,600 people.

If it had been an asteroid, it could have been tens of thousands of deaths.

In 2017, an asteroid nicknamed The Rock, came within a million miles of Earth.

That's close by space distances.

"If it were to ever hit earth the force would be "something on the order of 5,000 to 10,000 hydrogen bombs," according to NASA's Chief Scientist Dr. James Garvin.

So NASA asked the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab (APL) to build a spacecraft to do something about that threat.

"What we can do about it is to change the orbit of the asteroid so it misses," APL's Dr. Andy Cheng. "And that's what we intend to learn how to do."

It's called DART --  for Double Asteroid Redirection Test.

In 2022, DART will hit the smaller of two asteroids orbiting around each other, hopefully changing its speed.

"It will be a millimeter per second," said Cheng. "That tiny change would be enough for a real asteroid heading for the earth to make it miss."

The DART spacecraft won't be packing explosives.

It's bang comes from speed.

"It's because we're hitting it awful fast. We're hitting it at several times the speed of a rifle bullet," Cheng said.

While this is the first time something like this has ever been tried, better to know sooner than later if it will work.

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