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NASA to broadcast spacecraft crashing into asteroid

DART NASA
Posted at 2:32 PM, Sep 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-21 14:32:58-04

This will be one of the rare instances NASA wants the world to see a spacecraft crash.

On Monday, 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.

Officials have been spending recent weeks fine-tuning the spacecraft’s path. The spacecraft’s path will have to be programmed in before it crashes into Didymos. They have also tested the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical navigation, focusing on Jupiter and its moons.

“The Jupiter tests gave us the opportunity for DRACO to image something in our own solar system,” said Carolyn Ernst, DRACO instrument scientist at APL. “The images look fantastic, and we are excited for what DRACO will reveal about Didymos and Dimorphos in the hours and minutes leading up to impact.”

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.