NASA has launched the world’s first planetary defense system, designed to deflect an asteroid from a potential doomsday collision with Earth.


A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft has been launched from Space Launch Complex 4 at Vandenberg Space Force Base, about 242 km northwest of Los Angeles. Launch time was 10:21 p.m. PST on Nov. 23 (Indian Standard Time 11.51 am. Nov. 24). 


The DART payload, about the size of a small car, was released from the booster minutes after launch to begin a 10-month journey into deep space, some 11 million km from Earth. It is target to meet an asteroid ‘moonlet’ which is about the size of a football stadium, bumping it hard enough to shift its orbital track around the larger asteroid. A small nudge to an asteroid millions of miles away would be sufficient to safely reroute it.


The DART spacecraft will directly fly into the moonlet at 24,000 kph, and is expected to reach the target in late September 2022. 


Cameras mounted on the impactor of a mini-spacecraft to be released from DART about 10 days beforehand will record the collision and will be beamed to Earth. The estimated cost of the DART project at $330 million.




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