NASA has granted SpaceX a $69 million contract for a mission that will involve flying a spacecraft into an asteroid.
Last week, NASA announced it had selected the private aerospace company for its Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission, or DART for short. NASA hails DART as "the first-ever mission to demonstrate the capability to deflect an asteroid by colliding a spacecraft with it at high speed."
The plan is to "demonstrate a kinetic impact" by deliberately crashing the DART spacecraft into the small moon of an asteroid when it's close enough to the Earth in 2022. NASA says the impact "will change the speed of the moonlet ... by a fraction of one percent, enough to be measured using telescopes on Earth."
The current target launch date is June 2021, with SpaceX providing one of its Falcon 9 rockets to transport the DART craft into space.