The Spacecraft That's Going to Smash Into an Asteroid Just Sent Back Its First Pictures

It has been a month since the Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission launched. Three weeks ago, DART captured its first images, an important operational milestone as it hurtles toward a collision with Dimorphos.

DART will be used to test whether humankind can stop an asteroid from hitting Earth. The Didymos and the smaller Dimorphos are a good testing ground because they pass relatively close to Earth. We need to see if we can change an asteroid's path before we need to.

The dinosaurs were doomed to extinction because of an asteroid impact. Near Earth objects are objects that come close to Earth. None are currently on a collision course, and when you see headlines warning of such close calls, don't worry, they are usually not close at all. If all goes according to plan, DART will collide with Dimorphos in September of 2022.

The image above was taken when DART was about 2 million miles from Earth. According to a press release, it many looks like only blackness, but it captures about a dozen stars. There is an imaged area near the constellations of Aries and Taurus.

DART is carrying a small satellite that will be released 10 days before it arrives at the Didymos system. Three days after the first image, the camera took another one.

DART is on its way to its final destination and DRACO will take images along the way to help the team better understand any optical imperfections and calibrate brightness. The last set of shots will be captured in nine months.

The impact of DART would demonstrate the ability for a spaceship to autonomously navigate to and hit a target asteroid. We don't need a real-deal mission like this any time soon.

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