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NASA mission to send spacecraft crashing into asteroid

DART illustration.jpg
Posted at 11:23 AM, Nov 23, 2021

A NASA mission launching on Wednesday will intentionally send a spacecraft crashing into an asteroid.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test or DART is the agency's first planetary defense mission to help determine if intentionally crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid can change its course.

NASA says that the DART mission's target asteroid is not a threat to Earth.

"The DART mission is a key test that NASA and other U.S. and international space agencies will perform before any actual need is present, better preparing our defenses should we ever discover an asteroid on a collision course with Earth," the agency said.

The spacecraft is scheduled to launch at 1:21 am EST on Wednesday, November 24, from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

The launch will be live streamed on NASA's website.

Traveling at 15,000 miles per hour, NASA says that the spacecraft is designed to direct itself to impact an asteroid moonlet called Dimorphos.

NASA says that Dimorphos is the perfect candidate for the test mission because it poses no actual threat to Earth. There are no known asteroid threats to Earth for at least the next century, according to the agency.

Following the impact in fall 2022, scientist will be able measure the asteroid's change in orbit using ground-based telescopes.

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