DART will target Dismorphos, an asteroid moonlet circling a larger asteroid, Didymos, in an effort to see if the agency is capable of one day pushing out potentially dangerous asteroids from colliding with the Earth if the scenario presents itself.
"It's quite frankly the first time that we are able to demonstrate that we have not only the knowledge of the hazards posed by these asteroids and comets that are left over from the formation of the solar system, but also have the technology that we could deflect one from a course inbound to impact the Earth," Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA, said during a press conference last week via Axios.com.
Neither Dimorphos nor Didymos pose a threat to the Earth ahead of the DART mission.
NASA TV will live stream the collision, which is expected to take place at around 7:15 p.m. ET.
NASA will also use the Hubble Telescope and its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, to gather data during the mission.
Asteroids capable of destroying cities or planets have not ever posed a threat to Earth, but NASA wants to make sure its prepared for a potential catastrophic situation.
The mission will provide scientists and engineers with more data on how to manage a situation in which it needs to deflect an asteroid hurling toward the Earth.