Rare Earth Images Captured by NASA’s DART Project Prior to its Collision

The DART mission of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has obtained unique photographs of the Earth before it embarks on its catastrophic trip to collide with an asteroid’s moon.

The DART project takes pictures of the mission and returns them to Earth using an impactor spacecraft and a reconnaissance satellite created by the Italian Space Agency. The monitoring CubeSat sent back a unique photograph of Earth from a distance of almost 11 million kilometers as part of a practice run for tomorrow’s impact.

Image of the Earth taken by the DART venture | Image: NASA

The DART mission and the CubeSat were launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in late 2017; tomorrow’s event will provide NASA with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to test the system when the asteroid approaches Earth at its closest point in the upcoming years. Together with the satellite, its impactor spacecraft was launched, and early this month, as the duo approached their destination, the imaging spacecraft parted ways with the impact vehicle.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Launch | Image: SpaceX

The parent asteroid Didymos and its moonlet asteroid Dimorphos are both included in the target asteroid system, which NASA refers to as the Didymos asteroid system. The moonlet asteroid, according to estimations from NASA, is estimated to weigh 5 billion kilos, while the impact spacecraft will weigh around 570 kilograms.

By examining if the moonlet asteroid’s orbit around the main asteroid altered, NASA will decide whether the mission was successful or not. As there would be less space between Earth and the asteroid system, the agency will be able to see the asteroid more clearly via telescopes on Earth. This is one of the main reasons why late September has been picked as the date for impact.

NASA thoroughly tested the spacecraft on Earth before launching it, training the navigation system using Jupiter’s moons to replicate the asteroid system. This system’s algorithms are modeled after those found in missiles. To verify the accuracy of its physics, the agency will also compare the consequences of the kinetic impact from the DART tests with the outcomes of its ground simulations.

Tomorrow at 6 p.m. Eastern Time, NASA will begin its coverage of the DART mission, with impact scheduled at 7:14 p.m.


Muhammad Zuhair

Passionate about technology and gaming content, Zuhair focuses on analysing information and then presenting it to the audience.
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