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Photo: NASA

A NASA spacecraft called DART has launched on a journey to change the orbit of an asteroid in deep space.

Why it matters: The mission is designed to test technology that could one day be used to change the course of a dangerous asteroid if one is ever found on a collision course with Earth.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Driving the news: The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying DART — short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test — launched at 1:21a.m. on Wednesday.

How it works: DART is now on its way to its target — a small asteroid "moonlet" called Dimorphos in orbit around a larger asteroid called Didymos.

  • The two asteroids aren't in danger of impacting Earth, but this test will serve as a test to see if this technology can shift the orbit of an asteroid just slightly to throw it off course.
  • DART is expected to slam into Dimorphos in the fall of 2022.
  • "The right time to deflect an asteroid is as far away from the Earth as we can," Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer for NASA, said during a news conference ahead of launch. "The farther away in space it is... the less force it takes to change the orbit enough that it will be a miss instead of a hit."

What's next: NASA and other space agencies are constantly keeping an eye out for potentially dangerous objects that could impact the Earth.

  • Future missions, like the Near-Earth Object Surveyor space telescope will be best-equipped to track more asteroids that might threaten our planet.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include NASA's Twitter post.

Go deeper

Dec 1, 2021 - Science

Harris says Russia's anti-satellite test was "irresponsible"

Vice President Kamala Harris at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in November. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Russia's destructive test of an anti-satellite missile last month that created at least 1,500 pieces of space debris was "irresponsible" Vice President Kamala Harris said at the annual National Space Council meeting Wednesday.

Why it matters: Harris stressed that the test and its aftermath showed why new international behavioral norms and regulations are needed to help maintain space as a relatively safe environment.

Updated 7 mins ago - World

Myanmar's deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to 4 years in prison

An anti-coup protest in Yangon, Myanmar.Photo: Hkun Lat/Getty Images

A Myanmar court sentenced the country's ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, on Monday to four years in prison on charges of "inciting public unrest" and breaking COVID-19 protocols, per the New York Times.

Why it matters: It's the first of several verdicts that could result in the 76-year-old Nobel laureate being imprisoned for the rest of her life. The 11 charges she faces have been widely criticised as politically motivated.

3 hours ago - World

Pope Francis denounces European governments' migrant response

Pope Francis adresses refugees at the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos on Sunday. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis criticized European countries' response to migrants and asylum seekers during his visit to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos Sunday.

Why it matters: The pope said "migration is a humanitarian crisis that concerns everyone," but little had changed in the global response to displaced peoples since his first visit to Lesbos five years ago, per a transcript of his remarks. "Human lives, real people, are at stake. ... let us stop this shipwreck of civilization!"