SpaceX launching NASA DART spacecraft to crash into an asteroid

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Check (DART) spacecraft is put within the nosecone of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket in preparation for launch.

Ed Whitma / Johns Hopkins APL / NASA

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is ready to launch a first-of-its-kind planetary protection mission for NASA within the early hours of Wednesday morning, sending the spacecraft on its option to deliberately crash into an asteroid.

“We’re smashing into an asteroid,” NASA’s Launch Companies Program senior launch director Omar Baez stated throughout a press convention. “I am unable to imagine we’re doing that”

Referred to as the Double Asteroid Redirection Check (or DART) mission, the area company is making an attempt to be taught “how you can deflect a risk that will come” towards Earth, NASA affiliate administrator of the science mission directorate Thomas Zurbuchen stated.

“Relaxation assured, that rock proper now will not be a risk,” he stated.

SpaceX is launching DART on a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg House Power Base in California, with a liftoff window that begins at 1:20 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

DART is a 610-kilogram spacecraft that can spend 10 months touring to a pair of asteroids, that are named Didymos and Dimorphos. Johns Hopkins Utilized Physics Laboratory in Maryland constructed DART, whereas area firm Redwire contributed the spacecraft’s navigation and photo voltaic arrays that can energy it.

The aim of the mission is to hit the smaller of the 2 asteroids, Dimorphos, with the spacecraft at about 15,000 miles per hour and see how the impression modifications the asteroid’s trajectory.

An summary of the DART mission plan.

NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

The DART mission is costing NASA about $330 million in whole, with SpaceX having gained a $69 million contract in 2019 for the launch. Not solely is it NASA’s first planetary protection mission, however DART additionally represents SpaceX’s first mission launching a spacecraft to a different planetary physique.

“That is simply the best mission. Thanks all for enabling SpaceX to be part of a extremely vital planetary protection mission,” SpaceX director of civil satellite tv for pc missions Julianna Scheiman stated throughout a press convention.

SpaceX check fired its Falcon 9 rocket final Friday in preparation for the launch.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket with the Double Asteroid Redirection Check, or DART, spacecraft onboard is seen throughout dawn on Nov. 23, 2021 at Vandenberg House Power Base in California.

Invoice Ingalls / NASA

To present a way of scale, the Dimorphos asteroid is concerning the dimension of the Nice Pyramid of Giza, whereas the Didymos asteroid is wider in diameter than the One World Commerce Middle tower in New York Metropolis is tall. After arriving on the asteroids, and earlier than it smashes into Dimorphos, the DART spacecraft will deploy a small dice satellite tv for pc to take photographs of the impression occasion.

Whereas the mission is testing a way of planetary protection, Zurbuchen emphasised that NASA will not be conscious of any near-term dangers to Earth. There are billions of asteroids and comets orbiting the solar, however just a few have an opportunity of hitting the Earth for a really very long time.

“Of all of the close to Earth objects that we all know at the moment, none of them are a risk inside 100 years or so,” Zurbuchen stated.

Infographic displaying the sizes of the 2 asteroids within the Didymos system relative to some objects on Earth.

NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

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