NASA’s Asteroid-Smashing DART Spacecraft Snaps

Crash Into Me by the Dave Matthews Band is a good choice for a soundtrack. 
The small moon Dimorphos is floating through space with the larger asteroid Didymos, going about its own business and having no idea what’s coming. While this is going on, NASA’s DART spacecraft is looking at Dimorphos like a cat waiting to pounce.

NASA’s Asteroid-Smashing

On Wednesday, NASA showed the first picture of DART’s target, the Didymos system, taken from a long way away. “Double Asteroid Redirection Mission” is what DART stands for. To try to change its path around Didymos, the spacecraft will try to crash into Dimorphous. All of this work is being done to protect the planet and figure out if smashing a dangerous asteroid with the Hulk could keep it from hitting Earth in the future.

The asteroid system looks like a tiny dot of light in the picture, which is a picture of space. The composite is made up of 243 pictures taken by DART’s Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical Navigation (DRACO) on July 27 from a distance of 20 million miles (32 million kilometers).

Spooky pictures of space show the creepy side of the universe.

Even though this first picture doesn’t look like much, it shows that the camera is working as it should. Elena Adams, a DART mission systems engineer, said in a statement, “The quality of the image is similar to what we could get from ground-based telescopes. However, it is important to show that DRACO is working properly and can see its target so that we can make any necessary changes before we start using the images to guide the spacecraft into the asteroid on its own.”

Didymos and Dimorphos don’t pose a threat to our planet, but they are perfect for a test that sounds like it came from a science fiction disaster movie. On Sept. 26, DART is going to crash into the moonlet. Researchers will measure how the moonlet’s orbit around the asteroid has changed after it hit.

Since it started in November of last year, DART has been running smoothly. DART won’t make it through the mission, but its death could change the way we try to protect Earth from rocks from space.

It was first posted at 10:14 a.m. PT on September 8, 2022.

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