07 October 2021

NASA will shoot rocket at asteroid to test ‘planetary defense’ strategy.

NASA will launch a spacecraft next month to hit an asteroid — on purpose — to change its path, testing for the first time a method of “planetary defense,” the agency announced.

The launch of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission will occur at 1:20 a.m. Eastern time on Nov. 24, NASA said. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will be launched from the Vandenberg Space Force Base, about 50 miles northwest of Santa Barbara, Calif.

NASA is targeting a pair of asteroids that orbit the sun and occasionally come close to Earth. The asteroids don’t come close enough to pose a threat, NASA says, but their proximity makes them a prime candidate for the test of a technique that could someday prevent a “hazardous asteroid from striking Earth.”

The larger of the two asteroids, Didymos, is about a half-mile across in size, with a smaller “moonlet,” called Dimorphos, orbiting it. Dimorphos, about 500 feet in size, is “more typical of the size of asteroids that could pose the most likely significant threat to Earth,” according to NASA.

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