NASA has launched its first planetary defense mission on Tuesday from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission was to practice what the agency might do if planet Earth were threatened by a wayward asteroid.
DART took to the skies set to travel millions of miles out to smash into an asteroid in a planetary defense test.
Its goal is to slightly alter the trajectory of Dimorphos, a moonlet of about 160 meters wide that circles a much larger asteroid called Didymos.
“What we’re trying to learn is how to deflect a threat,” NASA’s top scientist Thomas Zuburchen said of the $330m project.
Planetary scientist Essam Heggy said that while NASA’s mission sounded like science fiction, the threat to the planet is real if the fate of the dinosaurs 80 million years ago is recalled.
“The chances of getting hit again by an asteroid is far from science fiction. Asteroids 100 meters and greater are a threat to the Earth, and we need to quantify our deflection capability to these threats,” Heggy added.
DART spacecraft was expected to collide with Dimorphos next September.
DART is the latest of several NASA missions of recent years to explore and interact with asteroids.
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