NASA has successfully launched a spacecraft that will eventually crash into an asteroid 11 million miles from Earth next year.
The Armageddon-style apocalyptic defense test is called the Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) — and it sounds like something straight out of a sci-fi movie.
The ambitious project – involving teams from NASA and the European Space Agency – is a test of technologies to prevent an Earth impact by a killer asteroid.
NASA launched the rocket at 10.21 p.m. Pacific time – or 6.21 p.m. in the UK.
Should it prove successful, it could pave the way for a new planetary defense system that could remove incoming space rocks before impact.
The plan mirrors the plot of the Hollywood mega-hit “Armageddon” in which NASA flies to an asteroid to prevent a spacecraft from colliding with Earth.
“DART will be the first demonstration of kinetic impactor technology to alter the motion of an asteroid in space,” NASA said on its website.
The DART spacecraft has a box-shaped body about twice the size of a washing machine surrounded by two, 18-metre-long solar panels.
On November 24, the craft launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Dart will reach the binary near-Earth asteroid Didymos after about nine months – 11 million miles from its home planet.
Its impact is expected between September 26 and October 1 next year.
Didymos measures approximately 740 meters and sits between the orbits of Earth and Mars. This is not strictly the focus of the mission.
Instead, NASA’s fearless battered ram will orbit Didymos closely on a smaller asteroid – or moonshine.
DART will hit the space rock at 15,000mph in an attempt to alter its orbital trajectory around its host.
After the Dart crashes into its target, NASA and the ESA telescope on Earth to test whether the plan worked.
A small CubeSat launched with the mission will collect data before, during and after the impact.
“The Dart spacecraft will achieve dynamic impact deflection by intentionally crashing itself into moonlight at a speed of approximately 6.6 km/s with the aid of an onboard camera (designated Draco) and sophisticated autonomous navigation software,” NASA says.
“The collision would change the motion of the Moon in its orbit around the main body by a fraction of a percent.
“This would change the moon’s orbital period by several minutes – enough to be observed and measured using telescopes on Earth.”
Space experts have already identified at least 26,000 so-called “near-Earth objects”.
An estimated 4,700 that meet NASA’s classification as “potentially dangerous objects.”
This means they are larger than 500 feet, pass within 4.7 million miles of Earth and would cause catastrophic damage if they collided.
Didymos isn’t considered a threat to our planet, but DART has promised to help NASA and ESA build a system to protect Earth from any space rocks that may be a little too close to rest in the future. Is.
In other news, check out our iPhone 13 review and iPhone 13 Pro review.
Take a look at the new Lamborghini Huracan Evo that can clean your house and make you dinner.
Find out about the wildly impressive Panasonic 65HZ1000 TV, which most teles find crap.
Read our complete guide to Call of Duty Vanguard.
And Dell’s Alienware R10 Ryzen Edition is a gaming PC powerhouse that crushes both new consoles.
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for the online tech and science team? Email us at [email protected]