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image depicting DART mission to smash into Dimorphos asteroid launches

DART mission to smash into Dimorphos asteroid launches

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After much anticipation, NASA has finally launched its DART mission. DART stands for Double Asteroid Redirection Test Mission. In this mission, NASA will crash a spacecraft travelling at 24,000 km/hour into an asteroid by next year.

NASA launched the mission on 24 November on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, US.

The main aim of the DART mission is to get the spacecraft to nudge (push) the asteroid to change its path. This will help scientists understand if this is a good way to deflect any future asteroid that might hit Earth.

This is also the first-ever attempt by any space agency to find a way to protect Earth from possible asteroid impacts.

Where is the spacecraft headed?

It is travelling to hit an asteroid called Dimorphos. This asteroid orbits around a larger asteroid named Didymos. (This system is known as a binary). Dimorphos lies just beyond the orbit of Mars and is not a threat to Earth. It was discovered in 2003 and is one of the smallest astronomical objects with a permanent name.

If all goes well, the spacecraft will hit the asteroid between 26 September and 1 October of next year.

NASA has chosen this asteroid as it is easy to observe from Earth using telescopes. The DART mission will also have a small satellite along with it, called LiciaCube, which will take photos of the event.

Are you excited about the mission? You can now support it by taking a short NASA quiz and becoming a Planetary Defender. Go to this link.


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