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NASA DART mission: The last images the space probe took before getting smashed

On Monday, NASA successfully sent a spacecraft to smash into the Dimorphos asteroid. Below are the last images the spacecraft took before getting smashed.
Written by Sabrina Ortiz, Associate Editor on
Dimorphos asteroid in space.
Image: NASA

On Sept. 26, NASA made history by successfully crashing into the Dimorphos asteroid with a NASA spacecraft. This was NASA's first ever attempt to shift an asteroid as part of its planetary defense strategy.

On board the spacecraft was a Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical navigation (DRACO) camera, which sent pictures back to Earth at a rate of one per second. Below are the incredible last images taken of the never-seen-before Dimorphos asteroid up close.

Eleven seconds to impact

Image of Dimorphos asteroid in space with an inset of the team watching.
Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

The first images that fully pictured Dimorphos up close revealed that the asteroid had a slightly unusual shape.

"It is amazing, but it is awfully egg-shaped," Carolyn Ernst, DART DRACO instrument scientist for Johns Hopkins APL, said during a NASA TV broadcast.

It was at this moment that the team was confident the spacecraft was going to hit its target. 

Also: Asteroids, spaceships, and dinosaurs: Everything you need to know about NASA's DART mission 

"Once we got a look at Dimorphos, I think that's when the team was confident that we were going to hit," said Mark Jensenius, DART smart nav guidance engineer for Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland.

Two seconds to impact

DART mission impact closeup and team celebrating.
Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

Two seconds before impact and 7 miles away (12 kilometers), we were able to see the asteroid's rocky surface. The image shows a patch of the asteroid that is 100 feet (31 meters) across, according to NASA. As seen by the photograph, at this time the team had declared impact and the celebrations had begun. 

Final image

A strip of Dimorphos at the top of a mostly dark red screen, with team celebrating.
Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

Finally, we have the last image that was transmitted to Earth during the impact. The image shows a whole lot of nothing, which is usually what cameras do when they smash into something, especially an asteroid. 

Also pictured is a celebratory team clapping at the success of their mission after years of planning. 

Also: NASA: This is the weird sound of a meteoroid hitting Mars

"I definitely think that as far as we can tell, our first planetary defense test was a success, and I think we can clap to that. Yeah, I think Earthlings should sleep better, I know I will," said Lena Adams, DART mission systems engineer at Johns Hopkins APL.

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