The spacecraft that will crash into an asteroid has just returned its first pictures


that it it was a month Since the launch of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission on its way to The binary asteroid system of Didymos and Dimorphos. Arrow capturing Her first pictures 3 weeks ago, an important operational milestone as the spacecraft propels toward a Collision with Dimorphos.

DART’s predetermined fate is testing NASA’s long-running question: whether mankind can go awry An asteroid to prevent it from hitting Earth. Neither Didymus nor the younger Demorphos threatens humanity, but it does pass relatively close to the ground, which makes it a good test ground. We’d better see if we can change the asteroid’s path before we do need to To change the path of the asteroid.

The first image of DART.

Famously, the impact of an asteroid on Earth was that Doomed by dinosaurs to extinction. NASA It tracks many things in space approaching Earth; They’re called Near Earth Objects (NEOs). Nobody Currently on Of course collision, when you see Warning headers For such close calls, don’t worry: “close” In cosmic terms it is usually Not close at all. Arrow will It collides with Demorphos 6.8 million miles from Earth in September 2022, if all goes according to plan.

picture above Taken when DART was about 2 A million miles from Earth, using the telescopic camera of the Draco spacecraft. Many just look Darkness is grainy, but captures about a dozen stars, according to Johns Hopkins University press release. The area depicted is near where Aries and Taurus intersect.

Stars in Messier 38, captured by the DRACO camera on DART on December 20, 2021.

Draco is only instrument in the DART payload, although DART also carries a small satellite that it will launch 10 days before it reaches the Didymos system. The camera took another picture three Days after the first, from 38 mIt is a star cluster about 4,200 light-years from Earth.

As DART continues its journey towards final destination, Draco will take pictures along the way to Helping the DART team better understand which ones visual defects and calibration brightness. This is all useful information beforehand the the last A batch of shots, which will be taken in about nine months.

Whether the effect of DART actually changes a file Dimorphos orbital Impact trajectory, the collision will demonstrate the spacecraft’s ability to autonomously navigate to and kinematically impact a target asteroid. Hopefully we won’t need a real mission like this any time soon.

More: 9 things to know about NASA disaster Mission to destroy an asteroid

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