NewsCovering America

Actions

NASA ready to see if crashing a spacecraft can alter asteroid's path

DART NASA
Posted at 7:34 AM, Sep 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-26 11:30:13-04

Tonight, NASA will intentionally crash its Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft into an asteroid. The broadcast will be available NASA.gov.

It is part of a test to see if scientists can alter the path of Didymos. The small asteroid is a half-mile wide and has an elliptical orbit around the solar system.

Scientists want to know if a spacecraft can deflect an asteroid for planetary defense. The asteroid poses no threat to Earth.

NASA said that the spacecraft’s camera will return one image per second back to Earth.

“In the hours before impact, the screen will appear mostly black, with a single point of light,” NASA said. “That point is the binary asteroid system Didymos which is made up of a larger asteroid named Didymos and a smaller asteroid that orbits around it called Dimorphos. As the 7:14 p.m. ET, impact of asteroid Dimorphos nears closer, the point of light will get bigger and eventually detailed asteroids will be visible.”

NASA said around 7:14 p.m. ET, the feed will go dark, indicating the spacecraft has crashed into the asteroid.

The LICIACube (short for Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging Asteroids) will also return images from above the impact, which should show the impact crater left by DART. LICIACube is the companion satellite for DART.

On Saturday, NASA said LICIACube tested its cameras, returning images of a crescent Earth and the Pleiades star cluster.

EARTH.jpeg
Crescent Earth as seen by DART's companion satellite.

The asteroid’s surface is believed to be extremely rough and full of boulders. It does not have a known atmosphere.

In 2003, the asteroid came within about 5 million miles of Earth. By comparison, the moon is nearly 250,000 miles from our planet.