NASA launches spacecraft to test asteroid defense concept

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, is an experiment that will be carried out on the Space Launch Complex 4E.

Bill Ingalls is a person.

NASA launched a spaceship Tuesday night to smash into an asteroid and see if it can be used to knock a speeding space rock off course.

The DART is a $330 million project that was launched from the Space Force Base on a Falcon 9 rocket.

In September 2022, it will hit Dimorphos, an asteroid 525 feet across, at 15,000 mph.

This isn't going to destroy the asteroid. Nancy Chabot, mission official for the project, said that it would give it a small push.

Didymos is a larger asteroid that dimorphos around. Scientists can measure the effectiveness of the collision with the pair.

Every 11 hours and 55 minutes, dimorphos completes a Didymos. DART's goal is to crash Dimorphos to cause it to fall closer to the bigger asteroid, which will shave 10 minutes off its flight time.

The change in the period will be measured by telescopes. 73 seconds is the minimum change to be considered a success.

Changing the course of an asteroid years or decades before it hits Earth with the potential for catastrophe could be done with the DART technique.

A small nudging would change the asteroid's position and prevent it from colliding with the Earth.

Scientists search for asteroids and plot their courses to see if they can hit the planet.

Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA, said that there is a large population of near-Earth asteroids out there. The key to planetary defense is to find them before they become an impact threat.

It will take 10 months for DART to reach the asteroid pair. About 11 million kilometers from Earth will be the location of the collision.

The Italian space agency will follow DART's release of a tiny observation craft.

The video will be streamed until it is destroyed. Three minutes later, the trailing craft will make images of the impact site and ejected material.