NASA launched DART, short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, from California on Friday.
The mission is slated to launch towards a supermassive asteroid known as Bennu in 2022 and fly by it again in 2025 to be examined. Once there, it will try to ram into the asteroid in order to redirect its path away from Earth.
DART is expected to collide with the asteroid and push its orbit in a safer direction. Scientists want to do this so that no one gets struck by an asteroid, although that could happen anyway.
“We’re launching the spacecraft on a rocket, which will take the spacecraft to the edge of space, which will get the spacecraft close to the path of Bennu. At that point, this spacecraft will begin to push the asteroid away from Earth,” NASA engineer Martin Dietzen, a DART co-investigator, told USA Today.
“Our intent is to do a tiny pilot test, which will open up the door for future explorations and the real science operations which will take place on the asteroid,” he added.
DART, which will only see about a 20 foot maneuver of the space rock, will be seen by the public as “the person in the car who somehow steers away from the train,” according to NASA.
Crowds at NASA centers across the country will be watching live via webcast at 9 a.m. ET.
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