NASA to launch test of system aimed at knocking asteroids off their path

NASA will launch a spacecraft on Wednesday that will, if all goes well, crash into an asteroid so scientists can see if it can knock the space rock off course.

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If successful, the space agency’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, would give the agency a tool to deflect any future asteroid threatening earth.

According to NASA, the asteroid that is targeted for the test does not pose a danger to earth.

Clayton Kachele, a mission manager for DART, said the demonstration had been designed to avoid creating a threat by knocking an asteroid off a path that doesn’t interact with Earth onto a path where it might.

The test mission is set to be launched on Wednesday aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It will rendezvous with the asteroid Dimorphos, which is part of a two-body asteroid system. Dimorphos is a small “moonlet” that orbits a larger asteroid named Didymos, according to NASA.

Dimorphos is roughly 525 feet wide.

DART is expected to reach Dimorphos in September 2022 when the Didymos system is within 11 million kilometers of Earth, according to NASA.

The results of the test will be able to be seen by ground-based telescopes and planetary radar, which will measure the change in momentum of Dimorphos, the space agency said.