In a real-world doomsday scenario, NASA’s launch TODAY ‘could help save millions of lives.’
NASA is set to launch the world’s first attempt to deflect an asteroid today, in what experts have described as an “exciting” mission that could one day “save millions of lives.”
NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART for short, is set to launch at 6.21 a.m. GMT today from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
The golf cart-sized spacecraft will be launched on a trajectory that will intercept a binary asteroid system nearly a year from now, carried aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The mission’s goal is to slam DART into a harmless object with a diameter of about 524 feet (160 meters) to see if it can shift its orbit.
The proof-of-concept mission, according to John Womersley of the University of Oxford, will thus test NASA’s ability to protect the Earth from a real-life doomsday scenario.
A massive asteroid is discovered barreling towards the planet in the 1998 blockbuster directed by Michael Bay, and a motley crew of deep-core drillers is tasked with blowing it up with nuclear bombs.
Although NASA’s DART isn’t as flashy, and its intended target isn’t a threat to Earth, the technology and techniques being tested could very well save the planet from destruction in the near future.
“It’s exciting because it’s different,” said Professor Womersley.
“This isn’t a’space science’ mission like the ones we’re used to, which help us figure out what an asteroid is made of or where it came from.
“It’s a technology demonstration, and it’s a demonstration of a potentially critical capability for the planet’s future – one we hope we never have to use, but one that could save millions of lives.”
The asteroid system 65803 Didymos has been officially named by scientists as NASA’s target.
NASA’s spacecraft will collide with Dimorphos, or Didymoon, a smaller “moonlet” known as Dimorphos.
The space rock is about 524 feet (160 meters) in diameter and represents the “asteroids that could pose the most likely significant threat to Earth,” according to NASA.
Dimorphos is orbited by a larger space rock that is about 1,560 feet (780 meters) across.
DART will collide with the moonlet at a speed of about 6.6 kilometers per second (14,763 miles per hour) and theoretically alter its orbit by less than 1%.
However, this will suffice.
“Brinkwire News in Condensed Form.”