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NASA is set to launch a spacecraft that will deliberately crash into an asteroid millions of miles from Earth, the first test of humanity’s ability to divert a potentially catastrophic celestial body.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) was scheduled to launch at 1:21 a.m. EST Wednesday from Vandenberg Space Force Base in Southern California. The mission’s purpose is simple in theory: The DART spacecraft will speed up to about 15,000 mph and eventually hurtle itself into a small asteroid, Dimorphos, in late September 2022. The collision will happen about 6.8 million miles from Earth.
COMING UP: #DARTMission launch! ????Our first test of #PlanetaryDefense is set to lift off at 1:21am ET (06:21 UTC) to attempt to change the motion of a non-threatening asteroid. Tune in at 12:30am ET (05:30 UTC) for live coverage: https://t.co/z1RgZwQkWS pic.twitter.com/qiOjrLLquM
NASA will then measure any change in momentum to see if the test successfully altered the asteroid’s trajectory. Dimorphos, which is about two football fields in size, orbits around a much larger asteroid called Didymos, which is about half a mile across.
“What we’re going to try and do is move this asteroid, just change its orbit a little bit and demonstrate that we can actually do this,” Dr. Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, said in a Q&A on Tuesday. “We don’t know of any asteroids that are potentially dangerous right now … but we want to test this technique so that if and when we discover an asteroid … we have this tool in our belt and we are ready to go.”
Watch the video:
COMING UP: #DARTMission launch! ????— NASA (@NASA) November 24, 2021
Our first test of #PlanetaryDefense is set to lift off at 1:21am ET (06:21 UTC) to attempt to change the motion of a non-threatening asteroid. Tune in at 12:30am ET (05:30 UTC) for live coverage: https://t.co/z1RgZwQkWS pic.twitter.com/qiOjrLLquM
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