On Monday, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) successfully impacted its asteroid target Dimorphos after 10 months of flying through space. During the spacecraft’s final moments before impact, DART was able to capture images of Dimorphos using its Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical navigation (DRACO). As expected from a 14,000 mph collision, the spacecraft was obliterated as it slammed into the asteroid.
Although no more images will be coming from the DART spacecraft, its CubeSat companion Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids (LICIACube), deployed from the spacecraft fifteen days before impact. Provided by the Italian Space Agency, LICIACube’s mission is to capture images of DART’s impact and of the asteroid’s resulting cloud of ejected matter. In tandem with the images returned by DRACO, LICIACube’s images will help provide a view of the collision’s effects to help scientists better characterize the effectiveness of kinetic impact in deflecting an asteroid.
LICIACube doesn’t carry a large antenna, so images will be downloading very slowly over the next few weeks. However, the first have already arrived: