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SpaceX launching NASA DART spacecraft to crash into an asteroid


In preparation for launch, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft (DART), is installed in the nosecone SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

Ed Whitma/Johns Hopkins APL/NASA

Elon Musk’sSpaceX has announced that it will launch an unprecedented planetary defense mission on Wednesday for NASA. This spacecraft will then be sent to an intentionally crashed into an asteroid.

Omar Baez (NASA’s Launch Services Program Senior Launch Director) said, “We are smashing into an asteroids,” during a conference. It’s unbelievable that this is happening.

Named the Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission (or DART), the agency seeks “how to deflect an attack that would come” towards Earth. Thomas Zurbuchen is NASA’s associate administrator for the science mission directorate.

He stated, “Rest assured. That rock right now does not pose a threat.”

SpaceX will launch DART aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, from Vandenberg Space Force Base (California), with a liftoff window starting at 1.20 AM. ET on Wednesday.

DART is an 610-kilogram spacecraft, that will travel for 10 months to two asteroids. They are called Didymos (or Dimorphos) and DART. DART was developed by Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory Maryland, and a space company RedwireThe spacecraft’s navigation system and the solar arrays which will fuel it were contributed by you.

Dimorphos is the smaller of both the asteroids. Spacecraft will travel at 15,000 mph and observe how impact affects the trajectory.

Here’s a summary of DART Mission Plan.

NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

NASA’s DART mission costs $330m in total. SpaceX won a $69m contract for 2019 to launch the spacecraft. DART represents SpaceX’s first spacecraft launch to another planet.

This is the most amazing mission. SpaceX’s director for civil satellite missions Julianna Scheiman expressed gratitude to everyone who allowed SpaceX to take part in this important mission.

SpaceX tested the Falcon 9 rocket in preparation of its launch last Friday.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, with its Double Asteroid Redirection Testing (or DART), spacecraft, is visible at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California. This was taken during sunrise on Nov. 23, 20,21.

Bill Ingalls / NASA

The Dimorphos is roughly the same size as the Great Pyramid of Giza. However, Didymos is larger than the One World Trade Center tower is high. Once it has reached the asteroids and is not yet smashed into them, DART will send a cube satellite out to photograph the impact.

Zurbuchen stressed that NASA does not know of any immediate risks to Earth while the mission tests a method for planetary defense. While there are millions of comets and asteroids around the sun, very few will ever reach Earth.

Zurbuchen declared, “Of all near Earth objects we know now, none are a danger within 100 years.”

Informationgraphic showing how the Didymos asteroids compare to other objects.

NASA/Johns Hopkins APL