A spacecraft that must ultimately crash to succeed was launched late on Tuesday; from California on a Nasa mission to demonstrate the world’s first planetary defence system, designed to deflect an asteroid from a potential doomsday collision with Earth.
The DART spacecraft soared into the night sky at 10:21pm Pacific time on Tuesday; from Vandenberg US Space Force Base, carried aboard a SpaceX-owned Falcon 9 rocket.
The DART payload, about the size of a vending machine, was released from the booster a few minutes; after launch to begin a 10-month journey into space, some 11 million km from Earth.
DART will fly under the guidance of NASA’s flight directors until the last hours of its odyssey; when control will be handed over to an autonomous onboard navigation system.
The mission’s finale will test spacecraft’s ability to alter an asteroid’s trajectory with sheer kinetic force, plowing into it at high speed to nudge the space boulder off course just enough to keep our planet out of harm’s way.
Cameras mounted on the impactor and on a briefcase-sized mini-spacecraft to be released from DART about 10 days beforehand will record the collision as well as beam images of it back to Earth.
The asteroid that DART is aiming for poses no actual threat and is also tiny compared with the cataclysmic Chicxulub asteroid that struck Earth some 66 million years ago, leading to extinction of the dinosaurs.
Pentagon to form new group to probe UFOs
The US department of defence late on Tuesday; said it will establish a new group, called the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group; to probe reports on the presence of UFOs in restricted airspace.
This comes after the government released a report in June, encompassing 144 observations; which said there was a lack of sufficient data to determine the nature of mysterious flying objects.