NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) successfully launched on Wednesday (Nov. 24) at 1:21 a.m. EST on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. This is officially the first full-scale mission to test technology for defending Earth against potential asteroid or comet hazards.
The goal is for DART to show that a spacecraft has the ability to autonomously navigate to a target asteroid and intentionally collide with it, or in scientific terms, a method of deflection called kinetic impact. This data will then provide important data to help better prepare for an asteroid that could potentially pose an impact hazard to Earth. LICIACube, a CubeSat riding with DART and provided by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), is also going to be released prior to DART’s impact to capture images of the impact as well as the resulting cloud of ejected matter.
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At its core, DART is a mission of preparedness, and it is also a mission of unity. This international collaboration involves DART, ASI’s LICIACube, and ESA’s Hera investigations and science teams, which will follow up on this groundbreaking space mission,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.