NASA is a taking page out of the action flick “Armageddon” – by launching a spaceship to wallop an asteroid’s moon in a test to deflect a space rock threatening our planet.
The space agency’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, is set to lift off at 1:20 a.m. EST on Nov. 24 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
The planetary defense mission is anticipated to make impact between Sept. 26 and Oct. 2, 2022 – striking its target at nearly 15,000 mph, 6.8 million miles away from Earth, officials said.
Live coverage of the launch will be shown on NASA TV, the agency’s app and its website.
“DART will be the first demonstration of the kinetic impactor technique, which involves sending one or more large, high-speed spacecraft into the path of an asteroid in space to change its motion,” NASA said.
“Its target is the binary near-Earth asteroid Didymos and its moonlet,” it added.
The Planetary Defense Coordination Office manages the mission, which involves sending a pair of satellites out to the relatively nearby Didymos, which is about 2,600 feet in diameter, and its 525-foot-wide moonlet, according to Tech Crunch.
“Up until now, we haven’t had too many options for what we might do if we found something that was incoming,” Johns Hopkins planetary astronomer Andy Rivkin told Vice News recently.
“DART is the first test of how we might be able to deflect something without having to resort to a nuclear package, or sitting in our basements, waiting it out and crossing our fingers,” he added.
The Italian Space Agency is collaborating with the Light Italian CubeSat for Imagine Asteroids, or LICIACube, which will observe “the mess we make,” as Rivkin put it.
Earthbound humans also will be able to catch the action with very powerful telescopes.