In one of its variants, NASA launched a campaign on Wednesday to deliberately crash a spaceship into an asteroid traveling at 15,000 miles per hour. The whole idea of this is to test whether the spacecraft to move an asteroid can move it in a different direction. The equipment is called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test or DART.
If the campaign succeeds it will give NASA and other Earth space agencies a mental nod to move forward and stop if the vast universe moves towards us to end life on Earth one day. In such a situation the space agency could divert an asteroid toward Earth and avoid a catastrophic future impact.
There are 10,000 asteroids near Earth that are 460 feet in size or more, but none of them have a significant chance of striking in the next 100 years.
How will the DART mission work?
The DART spacecraft climbed to the top of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Wednesday at 1:21 a.m. Eastern Time.
The machines departed from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 10:21 pm Pacific Time on Tuesday.
The rocket landed in space before sending its reusable propeller back to sea to land on the SpaceX spacecraft.
It will take about an hour to move the spacecraft into orbit, and hours after that it will open the solar panels to give the car power for its journey.
The impact will occur in late September or early October next year when binary asteroids are very close to Earth, about 6.8 million miles.
Four hours before the impact, the DART spacecraft will automatically direct itself to Dimorphos to hit 15,000 miles per hour.
The internal camera will capture and send images to Earth in real time for up to 20 seconds before the DART effect.
A small satellite from the Italian Space Agency, which was launched 10 days before the impact, will be approaching 34 miles from space.
The satellite will take pictures every six seconds before and after the DART effect.