The DART impactor spacecraft didn’t leave Earth empty-handed; it carried solar panels, a visual navigation system called Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical navigation (DRACO), and a Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids (LICIACube) for transmitting recorded images back to NASA, among others. Fortunately, its onboard instrumentation was able to record its final moments with the pyramid-sized asteroid Dimorphos. A timelapse video revealed by NASA shows the DART spacecraft inching closer to the asteroid. This gave detailed glimpses of Dimorphos’ rocky surface up close as the spacecraft approached before eventually going offline shortly afterward. The spacecraft’s final image was taken right before impact, leading to an incomplete close-up of the asteroid’s rough terrain.
Of course, the tumultuous asteroid encounter did come at a price. The space agency estimated the cost of simply launching the DART spacecraft using SpaceX‘s Falcon 9 rocket to be almost $70 million, via a press release. Development of the spacecraft alone was said to cost roughly $308 million, according to the non-profit organization The Planetary Society. In the end, the mission was an expensive yet successful demonstration of the world’s first planetary defense system in action. While it’s certainly a costly affair, at least it produced results, not to mention some neat footage from the DART spacecraft as it was being deliberately decommissioned.