NASA and ESA mission to hit asteroid DidymosDate: 04 December 2019 Tags: Space
The European Space Agency (ESA) has approved the budget of HERA, the European component of the mission to slam a spacecraft into an asteroid.
Scientists are studying asteroids and trying to find ways to deflect them from a collision course with Earth. One such project is the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA), which includes NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission and the European Space Agency’s (ESA) HERA.
The project aims to study the effectiveness of an impact to ward off an impending asteroid threat.
Need for Planetary Defence Mechanism
There are around 25,000 near-Earth objects (NEOs) that orbit the Sun on a trajectory that brings them close to our planet’s orbit. However, certain near-Earth objects have been classified as “potentially hazardous” which are 140 metres or more in size and come within 0.05 AU (astronomical unit) to Earth.
An impact from one of these NEOs can bring devastating effects to Earth. Scientists are working on a number of planetary protection initiatives to deflect asteroids if they threaten to impact the Earth.
The Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA) is the most drastic measure of all times.
The twin-asteroid system Didymos is a binary near-Earth asteroid.
It is more typical of the size of asteroids that could pose the most likely significant threat to Earth. So, Didymos makes a suitable target for NASA and ESA’s mission.
DART and HERA
DART is scheduled to launch in 2021 with an aim to slam into the smaller asteroid of the Didymos system at around 6 km per second in 2022.
HERA will arrive at the Didymos system in 2027 to measure the impact crater produced by the DART collision and study the change in the asteroid’s orbital trajectory.
Asteroids, sometimes called minor planets, are rocky, airless remnants left over from the early formation of our solar system about 4.6 billion years ago.
Most of this space rubble can be found orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter within the main asteroid belt.