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Space mission to develop technology to protect Earth from asteroids underway with liftoff from Central Coast

NASA Photo
NASA's DART spacecraft was successfully launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base Tuesday night.

NASA's DART spacecraft with be flown into an asteroid.

A groundbreaking space mission got off to a picture-perfect start from the Central Coast Tuesday night.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is carrying a spacecraft on a more than nine month long mission which is the first attempt to see if we can defend the Earth against an asteroid strike. The goal is for NASA’s DART spacecraft to crash into a small asteroid about the size of a football field.

The idea is that when the craft hits the asteroid at 15,000 miles an hour, it will change its orbit. The target asteroid isn’t a threat to Earth, but the hope is to use this test to develop technology which could help if the planet is actually threatened.

The liftoff took place as scheduled at 10:21 p.m. from Vandenberg Space Force Base.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.