NASA launched a spacecraft on Tuesday night in a mission to crush an asteroid and test whether it would be possible to knock a rushing spacecraft off course if it were to threaten the earth.
The DART spacecraft, an abbreviation for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, took off from Vandenberg Space Force Base on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in a US $ 330 million project with echoes from the Bruce Willis movie Armageddon.
If all goes well, in September 2022 it will strike straight at Dimorphos, an asteroid with a diameter of 160 meters, at 24,000 km / h.
☀️ The sun’s heat on just rolled out solar panels. Nothing like that.
Scientists are constantly searching for asteroids and planning their courses to determine if they can hit the planet.
“Although there is not currently a known asteroid heading for Earth, we know that there is a large population of terrestrial asteroids out there,” said Lindley Johnson, a planetary defense officer at NASA. “The key to planetary defense is to find them well in advance before they are a threat to influence.”
DART will take 10 months to reach the asteroid pair. The collision will occur approximately 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometers) from Earth.
Ten days in advance, DART will release a small observation craft from the Italian space agency that will follow it.
DART will stream video until it is destroyed on impact. Three minutes later, the trailing craft will take pictures of the crash site and material being ejected.