NASA postpones launch of planetary defence mission

(IANS) NASA will delay the launch of a mission which seeks to test and validate a method to protect Earth in case of an asteroid impact threat.

The launch of the mission, called Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), has been moved from the primary launch window of July 21 to August 24 of this year to the secondary launch window of November 24 to February 15, 2022, NASA said on Wednesday.

The DART project is currently working with SpaceX and NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) to identify the earliest possible launch opportunity within this secondary window.

“At NASA, mission success and safety are of the utmost importance, and after a careful risk assessment, it became clear DART could not feasibly and safely launch within the primary launch window,” Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA said in a statement.

The mission aims to shift an asteroid’s orbit through kinetic impact — specifically, by impacting a spacecraft into the smaller member of the binary asteroid system Didymos to change its orbital speed.

While Covid-19 was not the sole factor for this delay, it has been a significant and critically contributing factor for multiple issues, NASA said.

The US space agency, however, added that DART will still arrive at the Didymos binary asteroid system within a few days of the originally scheduled impact date of September 30, 2022 and will carry out its kinetic impact test on the moonlet Dimorphos as planned.

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