NASA has successfully launched a spacecraft that will ultimately crash into an asteroid 11million miles from Earth next year.
The Armageddon-style apocalypse defence trial is called Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) – and sounds like something straight out of a sci-fi movie.
The ambitious project - which involves teams from Nasa and the European Space Agency - is a test of technologies for preventing an impact of Earth by a killer asteroid.
Nasa launched the rocket at 10.21pm Pacific time – or 6.21am in the UK.
Should it prove successful, it could pave the way for a new planetary defence system that can deflect incoming space rocks before impact.
The scheme mirrors the plot of Hollywood mega-hit "Armageddon", in which Nasa flies a spacecraft to an asteroid to stop it hitting Earth.
"DART will be the first demonstration of the kinetic impactor technique to change the motion of an asteroid in space," Nasa says on its website.
The DART spacecraft consists of a box-shaped body about twice the size of a washing machine flanked by two, 18-metre-long solar panels.
On November 24, the craft launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
DART will reach the binary near-Earth asteroid Didymos around nine months later – 11million miles from its home planet.
The impact is expected to take place between September 26 and October 1 next year.
Nasa launches spacecraft that will crash into an asteroid in Armageddon-style apocalypse defence
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