NASA is planning to crash its Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft into an asteroid on September 26.
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 was recently able to fine-tune the spacecraft's path after scientists were able to take images of the asteroid.
“This first set of images is being used as a test to prove our imaging techniques,” said Elena Adams, the DART mission systems engineer at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. “The quality of the image is similar to what we could obtain from ground-based telescopes, but it is important to show that DRACO is working properly and can see its target to make any adjustments needed before we begin using the images to guide the spacecraft into the asteroid autonomously.”
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.