Watch Live As NASA Launches DART Mission to Smash Into Asteroid

NASA's highly-anticipated Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is due to launch in less than 24 hours, and the space agency will be showing it live.

DART is a mission to demonstrate technology that might one day be able to save Earth from a deadly asteroid impact.

To do this, NASA will, for the first time in history, slam a spacecraft into a small space rock at thousands of miles per hour to see if it gets knocked off course.

What time is the launch?

The DART mission is due to launch at 1:21 a.m. EST on November 24, the mission's website stated as of Tuesday morning.

According to the NASA TV schedule, live coverage is due to start an hour beforehand at 12:30 a.m. The space agency's livestream channels will also be running educational coverage of the event throughout Tuesday.

NASA TV coverage of the launch can be watched on the space agency's website here or on YouTube here or below.

The DART spacecraft will launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. However, it will not reach its asteroid target until September 2022.

The spacecraft takes the form of a box that is around 3.9 by 4.3 by 4.3 feet in size. It also has two solar panels that are 27.9 feet long, providing it with power as it sails through space.

Altogether, the DART spacecraft weighs around 1,210 pounds and will be travelling at 4.1 miles per second (nearly 15,000 miles per hour) when it smashes into its target.

The spacecraft's target is a pair of asteroids called Didymos. This pair is known as a binary asteroid system, with a smaller one orbiting a larger one. The DART spacecraft will aim to crash into the smaller one, known as Dimorphos, which has a diameter of 525 feet.

Scientists will then use telescopes to see how the orbit of Dimorphos is affected by the collision. It should be noted that the Didymos pair do not pose a threat to Earth, and that DART is just a practice mission.

While asteroid impacts are often the realm of science fiction, they are now considered to be a genuine threat by space experts.

NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) currently states there are more than 27,000 near-Earth asteroids that are being tracked by experts. Currently none of them are thought to be likely to collide with our planet in the foreseeable future.

Yet impacts do happen. As recently as 2013, the Russian region of Chelyabinsk Oblast was shaken by an asteroid that entered our atmosphere at around 40,000 miles per hour and exploded mid-air, producing a shockwave powerful enough to smash glass over 200 square miles and injure more than 1,600 people, according to NASA. The asteroid is estimated to have been just 55 to 66 feet in size.

DART mission
An artist's illustration of the DART spacecraft approaching its target. The mission will aim to alter an asteroid's path through space. NASA / Johns Hopkins APL