Early this year, NASA tapped the services of SpaceX to help redirect a couple of asteroids that are headed to Earth. Although the project was basically downplayed by most space scientists, SpaceX founder Elon Musk referred to the mission using the word “Armageddon,” prompting the space community to wonder if the situation is more serious than it sounds. 

In a tweet, Musk expressed his excitement to carry out the mission for NASA. “Excited about launching @NASA asteroid defense mission! #Armageddon69,” the enigmatic SpaceX CEO said. 

It can be remembered that SpaceX was actually selected by NASA to launch an asteroid deflection mission last April. The project is called Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) and is said to be the U.S. space agency’s last-ditch attempt as part of the planet’s defense mission against a catastrophic asteroid impact. 

Under DART, space agency NASA will carry out a defense mission that would slam a spacecraft at high speed into an incoming pair of asteroids known as Didymos. The spacecraft aims to intercept the asteroids when it is already 6.8 million miles from Earth. By doing so, NASA hopes that the asteroids will change its trajectory and avoid hitting Earth. 

NASA hired Musk’s company in April to use its Falcon 9 rocket to launch the mission. 

“NASA has selected SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the agency’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, the first-ever mission to demonstrate the capability to deflect an asteroid by colliding a spacecraft with it at high speed – a technique known as a kinetic impactor,” a NASA press release said

The cost of the DART mission is somewhere around $69 million and is expected to launch in June 2021. The mission will happen at the Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. 

The DART mission will be using solar electric propulsion to intercept the asteroid Didymos’ moon in October 2022. During that date, the asteroid is projected to be within 11 million kilometers from Earth. 

Musk’s tweet, which used the hashtag #Armaggedon69, seems to be referencing the movie “Armageddon” starring Bruce Willis. Willis’ role was to spearhead a mission wherein his group would drill an asteroid and fill it with enough firepower to thwart a deadly impact on Earth. 

SpaceX Falcon 9 blast-off The NASA/German Research Centre for Geosciences GRACE Follow-On spacecraft launch onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, May 22, 2018, from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Photo: Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images