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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.

2 hours ago - Health

Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New data from South Africa suggests the Omicron variant spreads more than twice as quickly as the Delta variant, and that immunity from prior infection doesn't appear to protect a person very well against Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The findings are extremely preliminary, and there are still many open questions about how well vaccines work against the variant. But these initial breadcrumbs of data are helping the world begin to understand what it's up against.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
2 hours ago - Technology

AI could end foreign-language subtitles

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

AI companies are developing methods to translate and synthesize voices in ads, movies and TV.

Why it matters: The advances in voice synthesis could help fix bad movie dubbing — and they come as international content is becoming increasingly important to studios and streaming platforms as part of the globalization of entertainment.