NASA probe launches on mission to redirect an asteroid

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Dart, a NASA spacecraft, has embarked on a journey to change the orbit of an asteroid in deep space.

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why it matters: The mission is designed to test technology that could one day be used to change the course of a dangerous asteroid if one is ever found on a collision course with Earth.

Running news: The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Dart – short for Double Asteroid Redirect Test – launched at 1:21 p.m. on Wednesday.

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how it works: DART is now moving toward its target – a smaller asteroid “moonlight” called Dimorphos, which is in orbit around a larger asteroid called Didymos.

  • The two asteroids are not in danger of impacting Earth, but this test will serve as a test to see if this technology can shift an asteroid’s orbit slightly enough to throw it off.
  • DART is expected to collide in Dimorphos in the fall of 2022.
  • “The right time to remove an asteroid is as far from Earth as we can,” NASA planetary defense officer Lindley Johnson said during a press conference ahead of the launch. “The farther it is in space… the less force it takes to change orbit such that it will be a miss rather than a hit.”

What will happen next: NASA and other space agencies are constantly monitoring potentially dangerous objects that could impact Earth.

  • Future missions, such as the Near-Earth Object Surveyor Space Telescope, will be best equipped to track more asteroids that could threaten our planet.
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