NASA’s DART spacecraft was less than a week away when it accidentally crashed into an asteroid to test planetary defense technology. Short to test the reorientation of a double asteroid, DART is expected to collide on Dimorphos, the space rock orbiting the larger asteroid Didymos at 4:44 am PST on Sept. 27 to see if the collision will change its orbital path. Dimorphos has a diameter of 160 meters while Didymus has a diameter of 780 meters.
During the voyage to Didymos, the spacecraft captured images of Jupiter and four moons orbiting the gas giant. According to NASA, DART directed the Didymos Reconnaissance Camera and Optical Navigation Asteroid Camera (Draco) to Jupiter to test the Smart NAV system. As the name suggests, this system is intended for navigation which will help the spacecraft navigate to its target independently.
The photo was taken when the spacecraft was about 26 million kilometers from Earth and about 700 million kilometers from Jupiter. In addition to the gas giants, the image shows Ganymede, Jupiter, Europa, Io and Callisto from left to right.
DARCO is the only tool on DART that will take images of binary asteroid systems before they are destroyed by an avalanche. Jupiter was used by the mission team to test the NAV system because the planet has conditions similar to those a spacecraft would encounter near Didymos. The DART camera targets Jupiter’s moon Europa as it emerges from behind Jupiter, similar to how Dimorphos would visually separate from the massive asteroid Didymos hours before impact.
(DART mission profile; image; NASA)
“Every time we run one of these tests, we change the display, making it a little better and a little more responsive to what we would actually see during an event at a real station,” said Peter Eriksen, SMART Nav software engineer at the NASA Applied Physics Laboratory APL) In a statement.
The tests were conducted to give the SMART Nav team the opportunity to evaluate the performance of the navigation system in flight. On September 26, the team will perform a final maneuver to confirm the position of the Dimorphos target within 2 kilometers after which DART will move towards its target independently. Faucet here To see what happens after the effect.