In Space news this evening, clear weather has allowed NASA to successfully launch a rocket and spacecraft from California in its first planetary defence test mission. This mission seems like science fiction or from a Hollywood movie, but it will help determine if intentionally crashing a spacecraft into an asteroid is an effective way to change its course.
Its target is the asteroid ‘Dimorpho’, which orbits a larger asteroid named Didymos. In 10 months from now in September 2022, the spacecraft will impact the asteroid while traveling at a speed of 24,000 km/h around 11 million km from earth. The asteroid is an ideal candidate as it poses no actual impact threat to Earth, and scientists can measure the change in asteroid orbit with ground-based telescopes.
More information on the Planetary Defense Coordination can be viewed on https://dart.jhuapl.edu/Mission/Planetary-Defense.php
Here is the simulation of the impact mission and tonight’s at launch at 7:21pm NZ time courtesy of NASA live.