November 25, 2021
by Nick Brown
A Falcon 9 is launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California and carries the DART spacecraft on its terminal mission to Didymo’s binary asteroid system. (NASA)
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission payload out of Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on November 24, 2021, the first tangible mission under the US banner ‘planetary defense’.
The spacecraft is approx10-month journey to cover the 6.8 million miles to the binary asteroid system Didymos, where it will deliberately affect the moon Dimorphos with a diameter of 160 m orbiting the main Didymos asteroid.
It is expected that the 610 kg DART impact of 6.6 km / s will deflect Dimorphos’ orbit around Didymos by several minutes, which will be detected by ground-based sensors. This will again be verified by a mission from the European Space Agency called Hera, which will be launched in 2024 and conduct high-resolution surveys of the 2026 Didymos pair.
This marks humanity’s first attempt to consciously intervene in celestial bodies and defend the planet from dangerous influences.
None of the Didymos bodies are in danger of colliding with Earth. The test is intended to build data on the viability of any future test if a dangerous asteroid is detected.
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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission payload out of …