Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft at Didymos. (Credit: NASA)
by Jeremy RehmJohns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory
LAUREL, Md. — In the fall of 2022, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft will reach its destination: asteroid Didymos and its small moonlet, named Dimorphos.
The mission, directed for NASA by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, is a hypervelocity test crash, a one-way trip to demonstrate a planetary defense strategy to thwart an asteroid from hitting Earth.
And Dimorphos, no bigger than a small football stadium, is the target.
At T-minus 45 minutes — DART can distinguish the two asteroids and starts collecting data, informing its autonomous navigation system — the APL-developed SMARTNav algorithm — to help direct itself toward the target.
T-minus two minutes — Only Dimorphos is in view.
T-minus 17 seconds — DART will see the surface in exquisite detail, producing images with resolutions of about 20 inches per pixel.
Five seconds — DART sends the last images back to Earth.
Four — DART’s cruising at about 14,800 mph, the surface coming closer.
Three — closer
Two — closer
Until the last moment before ...