NASA summons Bruce Willis, “Armageddon” at rocket launch over LA – Deadline


US officials have long invoked the name of Bruce Willis in the interests of planetary security.

In a 2013 Senate hearing with experts to discuss the threat that asteroids pose to Earth, noted comedian Ted Cruz joked, “I was disappointed that Bruce Willis was not available to be the fifth witness on the panel.”

Fast forward to this week, as NASA launches its first test mission to redirect a non-threatening asteroid, department administrator Bill Nelson said the agency invited Willis to the launch, but Nelson said that the star would not be there. Considering Willis’ memorable ride Armageddon, however, Nelson said “we didn’t want to miss that connection.” If Willis is in Southern California tonight, he could still attend the launch.

Los Angeles area residents could witness an awe-inspiring light show in the night sky tonight when Elon Musk’s SpaceX attempts to launch the “planetary defense mission” from the recently renamed Vandenberg Space Force Base near Lompoc , north of Santa Barbara.

Depending on the visibility, nightly rocket launches from Vandenberg can create dazzling sights across much of Southern California. The eerie cloud patterns and resulting unfamiliar lights often leave curious Angelenos on social media with questions and jokes about, well, Armageddon.

A launch in 2017 was a case in point:

Tonight’s test is scheduled for 10:21 p.m. PT. The illuminated displays of original Vandenberg rockets typically appear over Los Angeles very soon after takeoff.

The event is the literal launch of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, mission, “the world’s first large-scale planetary defense test, demonstrating a method of asteroid deflection technology.” It’s been preparing for years.

The spacecraft loaded onto the rocket made by Musk is, according to NASA, “designed to impact an asteroid as a test of technology to see if it can change the motion of an asteroid in space.” The objective of the mission is to see if the intentional crash of a spaceship on an asteroid is an effective way to change its trajectory, if an Earth threatening asteroid is discovered in the future. DART’s target is the near-Earth binary asteroid Didymos and its moon, which poses no threat to Earth.

While the concept of a planetary collision with space debris Is sounding like something out of a hollywood blockbuster, it’s not that far-fetched. The Chicxulub crater under Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula is believed to be the result of such a collision, the effects of which are widely recognized worldwide as the cause of the mass extinction of dinosaurs (and 75% of life on Earth) eons ago.

Most recently, in February 2013, a meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, “creating an aerial explosion and shock wave that hit six cities in that country,” according to NASA. The Chelyabinsk object was “just 60 feet wide,” the agency said, “demonstrating that even small asteroids can be of concern – and making real-world testing of space-based planetary defense systems ‘all the more important’.

The 2013 Senate testimony was expected shortly after the Chelyabinsk impact. (For memory, Armageddon was released in 1998.)

NASA estimates that there are thousands of asteroids 500 feet wide or closer to Earth. That’s big enough to cause what the agency describes as “regional devastation” if they actually have an impact.

You can watch tonight’s launch below.

City News Service contributed to this report.


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