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NASA Gets Ready to Launch DART Planetary Defense Test in Late November; Lindley Johnson Quoted

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NASA is making final preparations to launch its first planetary defense test mission, which will attempt to kinetically impact the small moonlet asteroid named Dimorphos.

The space agency said Friday that its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission will launch on Nov. 27 to autonomously target then strike Dimorphos, which orbits the larger Didymos asteroid.

The mission will attempt to slightly change Dimorphos’ orbit, and only serves as a test as neither asteroid poses a threat to planet Earth.

“DART will be the first demonstration of the ‘kinetic impactor’ technique in which a spacecraft deliberately collides with a known asteroid at high speed to change the asteroid’s motion in space,” said Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA.

Johnson said the test can help planetary defense experts refine computer models for asteroid kinetic impactors and provide insight into how humans can deflect objects that potentially threaten Earth.

NASA may move the launch by a day later if necessary and attempt subsequent launches through February 2022 if needed.