Asteroid Impact: ESA's Hera to go on space hunt

The European Space Agency-led Hera mission is all about chasing the asteroid moon Dimorphos after the DART spacecraft crash.

| Updated on: Aug 06 2023, 10:35 IST
NASA tracks Asteroid 2023 OF1, reveals speed, size, close approach details
HERA mission
1/7 NASA says an asteroid is hurtling towards Earth and it will come very close tomorrow. (NASA JPL)
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2/7 According to the details published by the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), an asteroid, given the designation of Asteroid  2023 OF1, is on its way toward Earth and could make its closest approach to the planet tomorrow, August 2, 2023. (Freepik)
HERA mission
3/7 The close approach of this asteroid towards Earth is estimated to be 6,800,000 km. It belongs to the Apollo group of Near-Earth Asteroids. According to the data provided by CNEOS, this asteroid was first observed on 21 July, 2023. (Pixabay)
HERA mission
4/7 According to the data provided by CNEOS, this asteroid was first observed on 21 July, 2023. (Pixabay)
HERA mission
5/7 While the asteroid will not pose any threat to Earth, NASA will keep a constant watch to ensure it passes by as per its trajectory. (Pixabay)
HERA mission
6/7 Sometimes, asteroids may deviate from their paths due to various reasons including from the planet's gravitational effect. (REUTERS)
HERA mission
7/7 Asteroids are tracked by various space agencies because they pose a danger to Earth. For instance, when an asteroid exploded over the city of Chelyabinsk, it caused injuries to thousands of people.   (pixabay)
HERA mission
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Hera will check what happened after NASA hit the small asteroid moon, Dimorphos. (Representative image) (ESA)

Do you know what the Hera mission is about? Hera is a space mission by the European Space Agency and it is a part of their Space Safety and Security Program that is set to launch in October, 2024. The spacecraft will hunt down the pair of asteroids called Didymos and its moon Dimorphos and catch them by December, 2026. Notably, NASA's DART spacecraft hit Dimorphos in September, 2022 to test whether asteroids can be pushed off their course.

Hera's main job is to study Didymos and Dimorphos in detail, including the DART impact site. It will also check how effective DART's hit was. The data from Hera will help us understand more about asteroids and the history of our solar system. Hera will be the first mission to meet a pair of asteroids, and it'll provide important information for planetary science. Its work will be really helpful in preventing asteroid impacts on Earth.

Hera mission: Space Safety

According to a study published in the Planetary Science Journal, the Hera mission is being created by the European Space Agency (ESA) to ensure safety in space. It will launch in October, 2024 and is built upon a previous idea called the Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) concept.

The main goal of Hera is to study this pair of asteroids. It includes looking beneath the surface of the asteroids and understanding what happens when we hit one with a spacecraft. This information will be super useful for protecting Earth from asteroid danger, for mining in space, and for learning more about asteroids in general.

NASA and ESA agreed on the study of two independent but related missions in order to perform a deflection test using the kinetic impactor technique.

What will Hera mission do?

According to ESA, Hera is going to try something really big - it will check what happened after NASA hit the small moon, Dimorphos, which is like a moonlet that goes around the bigger asteroid called Didymos.

Hera will study this and learn how to protect Earth from asteroids. It will test new things, like moving around near the asteroid and doing tasks in low gravity. Hera will be the first mission to meet two asteroids and it's a really important step in keeping Earth safe.

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First Published Date: 06 Aug, 10:34 IST