Written by By Staff Writer
By Alexandra Mondalek, CNN
NASA launched its biggest mission yet to ensure Earth doesn’t get hit by an asteroid today.
The mission, called NEEMO4, involves launching a spacecraft into a “near Earth asteroid” for a series of dives to bring it back to Earth for impact tests. While the program is less than one week old, it’s already made history.
The spacecraft, named the NEEMO Speedster, has been named after the famous comic book villain, the Wicked Witch of the West.
NASA mission call letter NEEMO Speedster is named after the Wizard of Oz villain, the Wicked Witch of the West. Credit: NASA
“Such a spectacular name is a tribute to NEEMO4’s goal to return valuable information about asteroids of different sizes with higher-than-average odds of hitting Earth,” said NEEMO director William Parsons.
First held in 1997, the mission aims to help the agency’s scientists learn more about the size and composition of potentially hazardous asteroids, which could one day hurt Earth.
Scientists hope their model of the asteroid will help them prevent or minimize damage from these space rocks hitting Earth if one should end up colliding with the planet.
NASA operates the NEEMO program in partnership with the universities of Louisiana, Texas, Virginia and the Netherlands.
Later this year, the Speedster will put off other meteorites for another week to avoid causing more damage.
Parsons said NASA was “invested in the new mission and proud to support our nation and help safeguard life on Earth.”