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Historic NASA mission launches on time at Vandenberg SFB

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - NASA's first flight mission for planetary defense, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), seeks to test and validate a method to protect Earth in case of an asteroid impact threat.

The DART mission aims to shift an asteroid's orbit through kinetic impact by smashing a spacecraft into the smaller member of the binary asteroid system Didymos.

The Didymos asteroid system is comprised of Didymos and its small, orbiting moonlet, Dimorphos.  

In 2022, DART will pummel into the latter, a boulder about 160 meters (525 feet) in diameter, and change its orbital period around Didymos by about 10 minutes.

Using ground-based telescope observations prior to and after impact, scientists will be able to compare Dimorphos’ path around Didymos to determine how much the orbit has changed.  

The launch window for the Falcon-9 rocket carrying the DART spacecraft is set to open at 10:21 p.m. Tuesday night from Vandenberg Space Force Base.

A watch party was held at Allan Hanock's Lompoc Campus, over 70 people showed up.

Some came from long beach to feel the power of the rocket.

NewsChannel 3-12 spoke to some after the launch, and they were just thrilled to see this historic moment. 

“It was exciting," said Central Coast resident Brent Jenkins. "It was fun to be a group of people, masked up and all that kind of good stuff. But still being out with people to see history being made tonight.”

joseph ramirez/hanock college student

“iI is really cool just to see, even hear the presentation about how the technology was being developed, how long it has been developed," said Hancock College student Joseph Ramirez. "It is really cool just to be here, to see the culmination of all of that. It was a big blessing.”

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) leads the DART mission for NASA.

To learn more about the DART mission, click here.

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Keith Carls

Keith Carls is a reporter at NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Keith, click here.

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Karen Cruz-Orduña

Karen Cruz-Orduña is a reporter for NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Karen, click here.

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