Movies like Deep Impact and Armageddon rely on nukes to save the world and deliver the drama.

But planetary defense experts say in reality, if astronomers spotted a dangerous incoming space rock, the safest and best answer might be something more subtle, like simply pushing it off course by ramming it with a small spacecraft.

That's just what NASA is getting ready to try, with a spacecraft that's scheduled to smack into an asteroid at 7:14 pm Eastern time on Monday.

The impact will be the culmination of NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), a more than $300 million effort which launched a space vehicle in November of 2021 to perform humanity's first ever test of planetary defense technology.

The target asteroid, called Dimorphos, is around 7 million miles away and poses no threat to Earth. It's about 525 feet across and orbits another, larger asteroid.

NASA officials stress that there's no way their test could turn either of these space rocks into a menace.

"There is no scenario in which one or the other body can become a threat to the Earth," says Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the science mission directorate at NASA.

"It's just not scientifically possible, just because of momentum conservation and other things."