NASA hires SpaceX to help it crash an asteroid

Enlarge ImageNASA's DART spacecraft will blast off to the Didymos to crash into its moon.                  NASA

NASA has awarded SpaceX the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission. The mission costs $69 million.

The SpaceX launch delivered a Saudi Arabian satellite into space and for the first time ever all three Falcon Heavy rocket boosters returned to Earth after the launch. As the DART mission will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket, it's a relatively cheaper price compared to past NASA contracts for Falcon 9 launches.

The amount of the contract for SpaceX will be $ 69 million. The mission will launch in April 2021.

In the mission to defend Earth from asteroids, NASA is going with SpaceX. "This award underscores NASA's confidence in Falcon 9's capability to perform critical science missions while providing the best launch value in the industry".

The mission will also target another object which is scientifically known as a "moonlet" as NASA states its "more typical of the size of asteroids that could pose a more common hazard to Earth".

DART is a project developed in the applied physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University in the framework of NASA on planetary defense. An on-board camera and autonomous navigation software will assist in the strike, which hypothetically should shift the orbiting asteroid a fraction of 1%, but enough to be measured using telescopes from Earth. Assuming everything goes to plan, the spacecraft will intercept Didymos and its moon in October 2022, when the asteroid passes within 11 million kilometers of Earth. While this sounds exciting, if the mission fails, it would result in derailment of NASA's "kinetic impactor technique", however, success will provide crucial data that will inform its deployment against an actual asteroid that's approaching our planet. SpaceX will be handling launch duties with its Falcon 9 rocket, which will launch from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at some point in June 2021.

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