SpaceX founder and Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks on a screen during the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain Photograph:( AFP )
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission aims to deliberately smash a spacecraft into an asteroid
SpaceX founder Elon Musk has asked NASA to ''avenge the dinosaurs'' in its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission.
It comes after the US space agency did a test run should humanity ever need to stop a giant space rock from wiping out life on Earth.
The mission aims to deliberately smash a spacecraft into an asteroid in a demonstration of the world's first planetary defense system.
Its target is an asteroid "moonlet" the size of a football stadium that orbits a chunk of rock five times larger in a binary asteroid system named Didymos, the Greek word for twin.
The impact should take place in the fall of 2022 when the binary asteroid system is 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometers) from Earth, almost the nearest point they ever get.
According to Matthew Stuttard, head of R&D for Airbus Defence and Space Ltd in the Space Systems division, ''hitting an asteroid dead on with a direct hit is something that has never been done before, so it would be a first human achievement.''
"You need a fantastic guidance and navigation system because you're travelling so fast and the asteroid is travelling so fast towards you... It's a very small target, even though it's the size of a pyramid, it's a very small target in the vastness of space to go and rendezvous with and to hit dead on."
The SpaceX rocket carrying DART mission's spacecraft had lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Tuesday.
DART is the latest of several NASA missions of recent years to explore and interact with asteroids, primordial rocky remnants from the solar system's formation 4.6 billion years ago.
There are 10,000 known near-Earth asteroids 460 feet in size or greater, but none has a significant chance to hit in the next 100 years.
(With inputs from agencies)