European space agency collaborates with NASA on blocking asteroids

Pablo Tucker
September 18, 2020

- The European Space Agency (ESA) awarded a €129.4 million contract covering the design, manufacturing and testing of Hera, the space agency's first mission for planetary defence, ESA announced today. AIDA consists of two missions, NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), a kinetic impactor created to deviate the orbit of the smaller of the two Didymos asteroids, and ESA's HERA inspector spacecraft, that will rendez-vous the Didymos target asteroid about 4 years after the DART impact.

Due to launch in October 2024, Hera will travel to a binary asteroid system - the Didymos pair of near-Earth asteroids.

"Could we deflect the asteroid to prevent the impact?"

NASA says the asteroid has a 0.41 percent chance of hitting Earth alone.

NASA can not now detect space rocks any smaller than 33ft (10 meters) in diameter.

Other probes followed asteroids and are returning to Earth with samples.

However, an asteroid of the size of Vesta would cause apocalyptic damage to Earth, should one collide. The space operation is scheduled for September 2022.

Asteroids are bodies originated in the young stars nebulae that never grew to planets, formed of rock and metal.

In our solar system, science estimates that there are about 25,000 large asteroids - only about 8,000 have been identified so far. Another famous asteroid impact was Tunguska in Siberia in 1908, presumably belonging to the 30 to 100 meter class, which hit the Earth every 10 years.

"Yes, it can be one in a million but if that one is tomorrow then you are in trouble".

NASA said in a statement: "Vesta is the second most massive body in the main asteroid belt, accounting for nearly nine percent of the total mass of all asteroids". Around the main body, 780 meter in diameter (the size of a mountain), orbits a 160 meter moonlet, Dimorphos, similar in size to the great pyramid of Giza.

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. "In collaboration with Aerospace Corp, Centre for Near Earth Object Studies has developed an NEO Deflection App, which examines the kinetic impactor deflection technique for a series of hypothetical impacting asteroids".

Other reports by iNewsToday