STORY: "I can say that the team is ready, the ground systems are ready and the spacecraft is healthy and on track for an impact on Monday," said DART Project Manager Edward Reynolds during a news briefing in Washington on Thursday (September 22).
The DART spacecraft launched in November last year from California.
The mission's finale on September 26 will test spacecraft's ability to alter an asteroid's trajectory with sheer kinetic force, plowing into it at high speed to nudge the space boulder off course just enough to keep our planet out of harm's way.
"Dimorphos is a tiny asteroid. We've never seen it up close. We don't know what it looks like. We don't know what the shape is. And that's just one of the things that leads to the technical challenges of DART. Hitting an asteroid is a tough thing to do," said Tom Statler, a DART program scientist at NASA.
The plan is to fly the DART spacecraft directly into the moonlet, called Dimorphos, at 15,000 miles per hour (24,000 kph), bumping it hard enough to shift its orbital track around the larger asteroid.
Cameras mounted on the impactor and on a briefcase-sized mini-spacecraft to be released from DART about 10 days beforehand will record the collision and beam images of it back to Earth.