European asteroid defense mission gets off the ground


The space debris was recorded by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Center for Near Earth Object Studies, which tracks and predicts asteroids.

If an asteroid were to hit Earth, it would cause a global disaster.

After the Dimorphos collision, the ESA will launch in October 2024 its Hera craft, named after the Greek goddess of marriage, to map the impact crater and measure the asteroid's mass. HERA will also work together with NASA's Double Asteroid Redirect Test or DART probe.

The main body (Didymos A) is 780 meters in diameter and is orbited by a 160 meter moon (Didymos B, formally called Dimorphos). The US's contribution is set to launch in July 2021 where it will perform a "kinetic impact" on the smaller asteroid of the two asteroids it is set on probing. Furthermore, Thales Alenia Space, through its Italian footprint, is a worldwide leader for Integrated Transponders operating in different frequency bands and for different applications, i.e.: Earth Observation (COSMO constellation), Secure Communications, Solar System exploration (Rosetta, Mars Express, Venus Express, BepiColombo, JUNO, ExoMars, Solar Orbiter, JUICE, Mars Moon Explorer), and Scientific missions in Lagrangian orbit (Gaia, Lisa Pathfinder, JWST, EUCLID, PLATO).

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Hera will arrive at Didymos in late 2026 and will navigate around the system for at least 6 months, collecting data on the composition of the affected body and identifying changes in the trajectory of the larger asteroid, working together with telescopes on Earth. HERA will also be deploying tiny CubeSats into space to survey the asteroid up close. There are plenty of such bodies in our Solar system, from tiny little ones measuring a few meters (there's 40-50 millions of them) up to larger ones, measuring more than 1 km but much more scarce (there's less than 1000 of them). The use of DART is one of them.

To protect the Earth from threatening asteroids, scientists will develop a special apparatus called HERA.

The good news is there are no known asteroids on anything approaching this scale expected to slam into Earth any time soon.

Asteroids are rocky remnants from the early formation of Earth's cosmic neighbourhood approximately 4.6 billion years ago. Meanwhile, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency has a mission of its own, Hayabusa2, that is en route from asteroid Ryugu for a landing on Earth on December 6.