Elon Musk’s SpaceX is set to launch a first-of-its-kind planetary defense mission for NASA in the early hours of Wednesday morning, sending the spacecraft on its way to intentionally crash into an asteroid. We’re smashing into an asteroid,” NASA’s Launch Services Program senior launch director Omar Baez said during a press conference. “I can’t believe we’re doing that.
Known as the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (or DART) mission, the space agency is trying to learn “how to deflect a threat that would come” toward Earth, NASA associate administrator of the science mission directorate Thomas Zurbuchen said. Rest assured, that rock right now is not a threat,” he said.
SpaceX is launching DART on a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, with a liftoff window that begins at 1:20 a.m. ET on Wednesday.
DART is a 610-kilogram spacecraft that will spend 10 months travelling to a pair of asteroids, which are named Didymos and Dimorphos. Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland built DART, while space company Redwire contributed the spacecraft’s navigation and solar arrays that will power it.
The goal of the mission is to hit the smaller of the two asteroids, Dimorphos, with the spacecraft at about 15,000 miles per hour and see how the impact changes the asteroid’s trajectory.
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