Nasa launched a spacecraft Tuesday night on a mission to smash into an asteroid and test whether it would be possible to knock a speeding space rock off course if one were to threaten Earth. The DART spacecraft, short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in a $324 million project with echoes of the Bruce Willis movie “Armageddon.”
The $324 million DART mission is unusual for NASA, a civilian agency that focuses mainly on exploration, climate monitoring and hunting for signs of past life in our solar system. While it coordinates with and relies on the US Department of Defense for some activities, NASA has not traditionally been responsible for leading efforts to protect the United States — or Earth, for that matter — from any security threat.
If all goes well, the boxy, 1,200-pound (540-kilogram) craft will slam head-on into Dimorphos, an asteroid 525
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