NASA plans to demonstrate a first-of-its-kind planetary defense system, meant to deflect an asteroid from a potential cataclysmic collision with Earth, with a SpaceX rocket launching off from California late Tuesday.
The project will test NASA’s capacity to use kinetic force to alter an asteroid’s trajectory, crashing a robot spacecraft into it at high speed and moving the space boulder just enough to keep our world safe.
The DART mission will test NASA’s ability to use photonic force to alter an asteroid’s path, crashing a robot spacecraft into it at high speed and moving the space boulder just enough to keep our world safe.
The Chicxulub asteroid slammed into Earth some 66 million years ago, wiping most of the planet’s animal species. DART’s target is a quarter of the size of that asteroid. It is not on a course that will bring it close to Earth in the near future.
Smaller asteroids, on the other hand, are significantly more abundant and constitute a far bigger theoretical threat to Earth in the near future, according to scientists.
NASA has authorized Elon Musk’s SpaceX to launch DART from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast, some 240 kilometres northwest of Los Angeles, on a Falcon 9 rocket at 10:20 p.m. PT Tuesday (1:20 a.m. ET Wednesday).
If the launch is postponed, NASA will have an 84-day window to try again. DART will travel 11 million kilometres from Earth in ten months after being launched into space.
Source: CBC News