NASA will launch a spacecraft which deliberately hits an asteroid in just hours. This mission is the first of its kind and aims to determine if it can stop this giant space rock from wiping off life on Earth.

Double Asteroid Redirection Test is (DART), which is a small space probe that looks like a box, is patiently sitting atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The rocket will launch into space at 1.20 AM ET.  

NASA will host a livestream on their channel of Wednesday’s launch at 12:30 ET.

‘All systems and weather are looking good for tonight’s Falcon 9 launch of @NASA’s DART into an asteroid-intercepting interplanetary trajectory,’ Elon Musk’s SpaceX shared on Twitter today.

DART is a 1,344-pound craft that will spend the next 10 months traveling to a small asteroid Dimorphos, located 6.8 million miles from Earth, at 13,500 miles per hour – it will meet the target in October 2022.

This mission is designed to determine if an enormous spacecraft can push an asteroid toward Earth. If all goes according to plan, it will become NASA’s main weapon in real-world events. 

In an interview, Bill Nelson, NASA administrator said that DART “is something like a replay Bruce Willis’s movie, Armageddon”, although this was entirely fictional.”  

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In this image released by NASA, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, spacecraft onboard, is seen during sunrise, November 23, 2021

NASA has released an image showing the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Double Astronaut Redirection Test spacecraft. This was taken at sunrise on November 23rd, 2021.

NASA stresses that these asteroids pose no threat to Earth, but they were selected because they are visible from Earth-based telescopes.

Nelson spoke in a Wednesday interview that he said, “This could be our existence.”  If we are able to intercept an inbound asteroids, it could endanger our existence in the same way that an asteroid inundated in dinosaur times would.

“So there is a strong personal interest to be able to hit an asteroid with high velocity.

“If in the future an inbound Asteroid was on its path to Earth’s, we might be able send a probe there and alter the trajectory of the probe so it doesn’t get here.

This artist's illustration obtained from NASA on November 4, 2021 shows the DART spacecraft from behind prior to impact at the Didymos binary system. In the 1998 Hollywood blockbuster "Armageddon," Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck race to save the Earth from being pulverized by an asteroid

NASA provided this artist’s drawing on November 4, 2021. It shows the DART spacecraft viewed from the back before it made impact with the Didymos binary. Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck and Ben Affleck are in the movie ‘Armageddon’. They race to stop an asteroid from destroying the Earth.

SpaceX is using its Falcon 9 rocket to launch the DART mission and shared an update that all systems and weather looks good for launch

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will be used to launch DART. SpaceX shares an update that says all is well for launch.

Dimorphos has a diameter of 525 feet. This is the same size as two Statues. 

DART is a 1,344-pound craft that will spend the next 10 months traveling to a small asteroid Dimorphos

DART weighs 1,344 lbs and will be traveling for 10 months to the small asteroid Dimorphos.

DART and Dimorphos collide when the aim is to increase the speed of the asteroids by fractions of a per cent, but it shouldn’t be a disaster for the space rock.

Nancy Chabot, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory’s DART-building scientist, stated in a statement that “It’s only going to give it a little push.” 

“It will only be about 1% change in the orbital period. So what was 11 hours 55 minutes ago might now be 11 hours 45 minutes. 

Andy Rivkin is the DART investigator team leader. He stated that Dimorphos orbital time currently stands at 11 hours, 55 minutes. They expect the kick to reduce Dimorphos orbit by about 10 minutes.

NASA will also collect data about how altered the orbit of an asteroid after impact.

Scientists say that Didymos’ trajectory may also be altered, although it will not unintentionally alter Earth’s course.

NASA scientists will be looking toward Dimporphos as DART accelerates toward Dimporphos to determine if their mission succeeded.

NASA will monitor the time between two blinking lights. The asteroids will be visible as small dots of light reflecting off the dark background of space.

One light indicates Dimorphos has passed in front of Didymos  and another, which specifies that Dimorphos orbited behind its parent asteroid.

Dimorphos measures about 525 feet, the size of two Statues of Liberty, and is circling a much larger asteroid called Didymos, which is 2,500 feet in diameter- the pair are orbiting a distant sun

Dimorphos, measuring 525 feet is the same size as two Statues. He is orbiting Didymos (an asteroid larger than Didymos and measuring 2,500 feet each) while orbiting a distant Sun.

Dimorphos and Didymos are depicted here to scale with some of Earth's most famous landmarks

Here, Dimorphos & Didymos are scaled to some of the most iconic landmarks on Earth

Nancy Chabot of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, which built DART, said in a statement: 'It's just going to give it a small nudge. 'It's only going to be a change of about 1 percent in that orbital period, so what was 11 hours and 55 minutes before might be like 11 hours and 45 minutes'

Nancy Chabot from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory said that DART was just getting a slight push. It’s going to only be about 1% change in the orbital period. So what was 11 hours 55 minutes ago might now be 11 hours 45 minutes.

DART’s mission will be successful if Dimorphos’ orbit around Didymos can be extended for at least 73 seconds.  

NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office focuses on those greater than 460 feet, as these have the potential for threatening entire areas or whole cities.

Near-Earth asteroids measuring 460 feet or more in size are known. However, none of them has any significant chance of hitting Earth in the next 100 year.

However, only around 40% of these asteroids were discovered to date. 

NASA reports that after October 2022’s impact, observations using Earth-based optical telescopes or planetary radars from Earth will be made to measure Dimorphos orbital change around Didymos.

DART (pictured) is the first part of NASA's asteroid defense strategy, designed in collaboration with the European Space Agency to protect Earth from a possible impact from a 'hazardous asteroid'

DART (pictured), the first piece of NASA’s asteroid defense strategy was created in collaboration with European Space Agency. This is to help Earth protect itself from an impact from a dangerous asteroid.

In a briefing earlier in the month, representatives of space agencies provided information about DART’s cost, which is $330 million.

NASA’s Planetary Defense Office Lindley Johnson stated in a statement that although there’s no currently-known asteroid on an impact course to the Earth, it is known that there are a lot of nearby Earth asteroids.

The key to protecting the planet is to find them before they can cause an impact.

“We don’t want be in a position where an asteroids is heading towards Earth. Then we have to test that capability.”