On Friday, NASA announced plans to redirect the course of a small asteroid approaching earth, marking the first step in a planetary defense strategy intended to protect earth from the possibility of large asteroid strikes.

NASA’s plan involves using a “kinetic impactor” to change the course of an asteroid on its path so as to prevent it from crashing into the earth.  Unlike the movie “Armageddon,” which saw a team of oil drillers working to blow an inbound asteroid apart, simply adjusting the course of an asteroid would be a much safer, and less complex solution.

The mission, called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), a joint effort between NASA and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland, and has the potential to be the most important defense oriented project in human history.  While most defensive measures involve protecting nations from one another, what NASA learns throughout the DART exercise could go on to save the entire planet, and human race, if a large asteroid is discovered on a collision course with earth.

“DART would be NASA’s first mission to demonstrate what’s known as the kinetic impactor technique — striking the asteroid to shift its orbit — to defend against a potential future asteroid impact,” said Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This approval step advances the project toward an historic test with a non-threatening small asteroid.”