Nasa and SpaceX’s collaboration mission to crash a spacecraft into an asteroid is scheduled to launch at approximately 8:21 am today.
A Falcon 9 rocket from SpaceX will launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California with the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (Dart) spacecraft onboard.
In approximately one year, Nasa will use Dart to demonstrate a planetary defence system — known as kinetic impact — where the spacecraft will slam into an asteroid to redirect its trajectory.
“Nasa will intentionally crash the Dart spacecraft into an asteroid to see if that is an effective way to change its course, should an Earth-threatening asteroid be discovered in the future,” SpaceX said.
According to Engadget, the test will mark the first time humans have tried to redirect an asteroid.
Nasa completed the Dart spacecraft’s static fire test on Friday, 19 November, which checks engine temperature and pressure on startup.
The mission is targeting the binary asteroid Didymos, which is made up of two bodies — Didymos A and B.
The asteroid is not a threat to Earth (it would have bypassed the planet safely in 2022 and 2024), and Nasa wants to conduct the test as it has identified at least 23 objects that could collide with Earth over the next 100 years.
The entire launch will be streamed on Nasa’s Live YouTube Channel.