Last night SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched NASA’s DART asteroid mission.
The first stage landed successfully, completing its third flight. This was SpaceX’s 26th launch in 2021, setting a new record for the company and in fact for any private company ever.
DART’s mission is to test one method for changing an asteroid’s orbit.
After launch tonight, DART will take aim on an asteroid called Dimorphos. The spacecraft will strike Dimorphos at nearly 15,000 mph (about 6.6 kilometers per second).
The primary science goal of the mission is to measure how the high-speed collision next September, which will destroy the DART spacecraft, disrupts the orbit of Dimorphos around nearby Didymos. The data could help plan a future mission to deflect an asteroid on a course to hit Earth.
Dimorphos and its larger companion Didymos pose no near-term threat to Earth, but the asteroids will be close enough to our planet next year for astronomers to observe DART’s impact using ground-based telescopes. The asteroids orbit the sun in an elongated path that occasionally bring them into Earth’s neighborhood. That makes them potentially hazardous asteroids, although scientists say there is no near-term threat from the pair.
No space mission has ever explored Didymos and Dimorphos, but scientists who have observed them through telescopes say the asteroids are about a half-mile (780 meters) and 525 feet (160 meters) in diameter, respectively.
An Italian cubesat is also on board, and will separate from DART about ten days before impact so that it can observe the impact with two camera.
The leaders in 2021 launch race:
5 Europe (Arianespace)
China now leads the U.S. 43 to 41 in the national rankings. For the U.S. SpaceX’s launch last night topped the U.S. total from last year, which was this country’s highest launch total since the 1960s.
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From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space
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