While changing the orbit of an asteroid 7 million miles away sounds daunting, DART team members from NASA and JHUAPL said during a media briefing on Thursday (Sept. 22) that they are confident that the years of planning that have gone into the mission will lead to success.Related: NASA's DART asteroid-impact mission will be a key test of planetary defense.Traveling at speeds of 4.1 miles per second (6.6 km/s), or 14,760 mph (23,760 kph), the DART spacecraft will impact the 560-foot-wide (170 meters) Dimorphos, a moonlet that orbits the other member of its binary system, the 2,600-foot-wide (780 m) asteroid Didymos. .Katherine Calvin, chief scientist and senior climate advisor at NASA, said that while DART will be a key test of this "kinetic impactor" planetary defense strategy, the mission will also produce valuable science that will allow astronomers to peer back into the deep history of the solar system. .
"The first test is a test of our ability to build an autonomously guided spacecraft that will actually achieve the kinetic impact on the asteroid.
The second test is a test of how the actual asteroid responds to the kinetic impact," Statler said.Read more: DART asteroid mission: NASA's first planetary defense spacecraft.
Edward Reynolds, DART project manager at JHUAPL, said the spacecraft is ready to smash itself to pieces on the surface of Dimorphos when the time comes. .
"The ground systems are ready, and the spacecraft is healthy and on track for an impact on Monday.".
Elena Adams, DART mission systems engineer at JHUAPL, said that the team is still making sure the impactor spacecraft is on course. ."Over the next couple of days, we're actually still performing some trajectory correction maneuvers to make sure that we are on the right path to hit the asteroid," Adams said.Adams said the team has 21 contingencies in place in case DART's Small-body Maneuvering Autonomous Real Time Navigation (Smart Nav) system determines that the spacecraft is off course!
In the event that DART misses Dimorphos, Adams says the team will immediately begin processing the data the spacecraft collected and plan for a possible impact with other objects. !— DART asteroid mission: NASA's first planetary defense spacecraft. — NASA's DART mission will put on an asteroid-smashing show next week.In response to a question from Space.com concerning any flight testing the team has conducted, Adams mentioned a recent set of images the DART spacecraft's DRACO camera took of Jupiter and its four big Galilean moons.Statler reiterated that confidence, adding that, while this type of mission was once the stuff of fantasy, the DART team believes we now have the tools and the knowledge to carry out a successful planetary defense mission.
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