While not as frequent, asteroids in our solar system can still make their way to Earth. Although Earth’s atmosphere often disintegrates the small ones, larger asteroids can hit earth as we learned after one entered Chelyabinsk, Russia back in 2013. The asteroid caused a massive shock wave that caused broken windows in several Russian cities. While the chances of a large asteroid hitting Earth are pretty slim, smaller asteroids can make their way to Earth. As a result, scientists are trying to find ways to avoid the collision or destroy an asteroid before it hits the Earth. At the moment NASA has its DART mission scheduled for launch in 2021. And now, if everything goes well, then ESA will visit the asteroids with its own HERA mission.
ESA revealed that the upcoming mission will explore a binary asteroid system which will also be the first time a human made spacecraft visits such system. Talking about the upcoming mission, Hera manager Ian Carnelli said, “Such a binary asteroid system is the perfect testbed for a planetary defence experiment but is also an entirely new environment for asteroid investigations. Although binaries make up 15% of all known asteroids, they have never been explored before, and we anticipate many surprises.”
“The extremely low-gravity environment also presents new challenges to the guidance and navigation systems. Fortunately we can count on the unique experience of ESA’s Rosetta operations team which is an incredible asset for the Hera mission.”
According to ESA, the spacecraft will perform high-resolution visual, laser and radio science mapping of the moon to understand the moon’s surface and interior structure. Thanks to the upcoming mission, researchers will be able to understand the planetary defense technique that can help us to stop an incoming asteroid in case we need to accomplish such goals in future.
In case you are interested in learning more about the upcoming mission, you can check out the video below.