SpaceX's Falcon 9 first stage booster is set to launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base at 10:20 p.m. today, carrying upon it NASA’s first planetary defense test spacecraft designed to deliberately collide with a small asteroid approximately 6,835,083 miles away from Earth.
If all goes as planned, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft will travel at a speed of roughly 15,000 mph and ultimately crash into Dimorphos, a moonlet asteroid which orbits larger twin asteroid Didymos, by the fall of 2022, according to NASA launch officials.
The Didymos binary asteroid system is the ideal candidate for DART, according to officials, as it poses no actual impact threat to Earth, and scientists can measure the change in Dimorphos’ orbit with ground-based telescopes. Outcomes of the mission will demonstrate a potential method of protecting Earth from hazards in the future, officials said.
Col. Rob Long, Space Launch Delta 30 commander, will be the launch decision authority on-site at Vandenberg's eastern Space Launch Complex-4.
Hancock College is partnering with NASA for two days of space-focused activities and workshops leading up to the agency's Nov. 23 launch of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test from Vandenberg Space Force Base.