Original topic for the launch
(converted automatically to our local time) after nearly a year in transit NASA’s DART mission will slam into the asteroid Dimorphos in the first ever test of protecting earth from an asteroid. Don’t worry though, this is just a test, if the mission fails the asteroid is never going to get anywhere near earth. This will though be the first time a system designed to protect the earth from a potentially dangerous asteroid will be tested in the real world.
(Largely copied from launch topic)
Timeline of the impact
- 4 hours to impact, DART enters autonomous mode with it’s SMART Nav guidance system. At this point it is targeting Didymos becuase it can not see Dimorphos (the smaller of the two and the target) yet.
- about 50 mins before impact the spacecraft will switch to targeting the moonlet which it will have been able to see for about 40 minutes at this point.
- 20 mins to impact, DART enters “precision lock” where it now ignores the larger of the two in the pair and entirely focuses on it’s target.
- 2.5 mins to impact, DART disables it’s thrusters to ensure a more stable base for DRACO camera to image the surface. From here its trajectory is set and it will coast in at 14,760 mph, or 4 miles per second.
- 3 minutes after impact, the Italian cube sat LICIACube will fly by and see the dust cloud and any major changes to the surface of the astroid.
What else to expect
One of the coolest parts of the mission in my opinion is the Italian Cube sat called LICIACube that is along for the ride. A few days ago it popped off the side of DART and will now follow it while recording the impact. It is currently unclear as far as I can find what format or where that content will be, but there should be some cool pictures/videos somewhere after this mission is done. It will also image the dust plume and the impact site to try to better understand the composition of the astroid and how the astroid reacts to the impact. DART itself will also be taking close up pictures of the astroid on its final approach. This is why there are no control inputs in the final moments, any thruster firings would make it too shakey and the images would be ruined. If this were being done for real they would likely forego the science collection to make sure that a successful impact occurred. But this mission is as much about understanding asteroids and how they react to impacts as it is about seeing the effects of an impact, so collecting images of the surface is very important.