A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches from Vandenberg Space Force Base. Photo courtesy of NASA. Vandenberg Space Force Base logo courtesy of Vandenberg Space Force Base.

Launch from Vandenberg on Tuesday carried NASA payload

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Tuesday, November 24, shortly before 1:30 a.m. carried a NASA payload to test whether an asteroid headed towards Earth could be knocked off course.

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission will crash into an asteroid named Dimorphos, a moonlet of a larger asteroid named Didymos. Both are in near-Earth orbit but pose no threat to our planet.

The goal of the mission is to test whether the asteroid’s orbit can be changed. It forms part of a larger defensive effort to protect our planet from space-based dangers. If successful, the change in the asteroid’s orbit should be visible from ground-based telescopes.

(And how cool is it that Vandenberg Air Force Base has been renamed Vandenberg Space Force Base?)