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NASA’s DART Spacecraft Captures Photos of Jupiter System

DART spacecraft

NASA’s DART Spacecraft Captures Photos of Jupiter System

The operators of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, a spacecraft on a mission to deflect the small moonlet asteroid Dimorphos, used its camera on July 1 and Aug. 2 to take pictures of Jupiter and its moon system. According to NASA, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory team performed the image capture to evaluate the Small-body Maneuvering Autonomous Real Time Navigation system onboard DART ahead of its Sept. 26 encounter with Dimorphos. According to Peter Ericksen, a SMART Nav software engineer at JHUAPL, tests like this allow the team to adjust the displays, improving responsiveness before the day of impact, NASA said.

DART is the first planetary defense mission aiming to shift the trajectory and speed of an asteroid. It will also be the first to utilize the kinetic impactor technique, altering the speed and path of an asteroid. Lindley Johnson, the planetary defense officer at NASA, explained that DART will contribute to the fine-tuning of asteroid kinetic impactor computer models.

DART launched into space on Nov. 24 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. NASA had postponed the liftoff by several months due to faults in key components such as the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optic Navigation, the device utilized to take photographs of Jupiter and its system of moons. Once the spacecraft comes within range of Dimorphos and Didymos, DRACO will capture images and support SMART Nav as it autonomously maneuvers DART toward the smaller asteroid.

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Category: Space