A spaceship designed to crash into an asteroid 11 million kilometers from Earth has returned its first image from space.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is currently exploding in space as part of an Armageddon-style mission.
Its goal is to test technology that can defend Earth against potentially destructive asteroids in the future.
The spacecraft opened its “eyes” two weeks after liftoff from a base in California in November, and we can now get a glimpse of its flight.
The slightly grainy shot, taken about two million kilometers from Earth, was captured thanks to the onboard DRACO telescopic camera.
Scientists were able to distinguish dozens of stars near the intersection of the constellations Perseus, Aries and Taurus.
But DART is not expected to reach its final destination until September 2022, so we can expect more images to arrive on its long journey.
If the mission succeeds, it could pave the way for a new planetary defense system capable of deflecting incoming space rocks before impact.
The diagram reflects the plot of the Hollywood blockbuster “Armageddon,” in which NASA flies a spacecraft toward an asteroid to prevent it from colliding with Earth.
DART flies toward the near-Earth binary asteroid Didymos, which has a diameter of about 740 meters (2,427 feet) and is located between the orbits of Earth and Mars.
But that is not the exact goal of the mission.
Instead, NASA’s bold RAM will set its sights on a smaller asteroid – or moon – orbiting near Didymus.
DART will smash into space rocks at 15,000 miles per hour in an attempt to change its orbital path around its host.
After DART collides with its target, NASA and ESA telescopes will spill onto Earth to check if the system is working.
A small cube that is launched along with the mission will collect data before, during and after the collision.
Space experts have already identified at least 26,000 so-called “near-Earth” objects.
It is estimated that 4700 meet NASA’s classification as “Potentially Hazardous Objects”.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and is reprinted here with permission.
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