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NASA will Launch Defense Asteroid this Month

NASA plans to crash a spacecraft travelling at a speed of 15,000 miles per hour (24,000 kph) into an asteroid next year in a test of planetary defence. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is to determine whether this is an effective way to deflect the course of an asteroid should one threaten the Earth in the future.

NASA provided details of the DART mission, which carries a price tag of $330 million, in a briefing for reporters on Thursday.Lindley Johnson, NASA Planetary Defense Officer said that although there isn’t a currently known asteroid that’s on an impact course with the Earth, we do know that there is a large population of near-Earth asteroids out there.

Johnson said that the key to planetary defence is finding them well before they are an impact threat. They don’t want to be in a situation where an asteroid is headed towards Earth and then have to test this capability. The DART spacecraft is scheduled to be launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 10:20 pm Pacific time on November 23 from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

If the launch takes place at or around that time, impact with the asteroid some 6.8 million miles from Earth would occur between September 26 and October 1 of next year. The target asteroid, Dimorphos, which means two forms’ in Greek, is about 525 feet in diameter and orbits around a larger asteroid named Didymos, “twin” in Greek. Johnson said that while neither asteroid poses a threat to Earth they are ideal candidates for the test because of the ability to observe them with ground-based telescopes.

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