NASA is set to make history today when it smashes a spacecraft into an asteroid at over 14,700 miles per hour as part of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission

Image source: Google

Over the past few years, astronomers have been very busy observing a pair of gravitationally bound asteroids, together in orbit around the Sun, to get precise data on their orbits

NASA scientists want to find out if it is possible to change an asteroid's path through space by ramming something into it—a maneuver that has never been tried before

The target is a binary asteroid system—a large, 2,560 foot space rock known as Didymos that is orbited by a small, rocky moon called Dimorphos, which is 525 feet in diameter

The 1,260lb DART spacecraft will smash into Dimorphos, shortening the time it takes to orbit Didymos by several minutes

LICIACube was packed away inside the DART spacecraft until September 11, when it separated from the NASA craft. It has been floating through space independently ever since

ASI has already released images taken by LICIACube as it calibrates itself ahead of the collision. One photo shows a partially silhouetted Earth taken from a distance of about 8.6 million miles

LICIACube is due to arrive at Dimorphos about three minutes after the DART spacecraft does, so it will have a unique view of the impact and its aftermath

The camera is designed to document the effects of the DART impact and capture images of the asteroid's surface. It will use two optical cameras to look at the debris ejected by the collision

The camera is designed to document the effects of the DART impact and capture images of the asteroid's surface. It will use two optical cameras to look at the debris ejected by the collision