The HERA mission will cost $ 153 million, but this is a small cost if it comes to developing an effective method to neutralize space rocks that will end up in collision orbit with Earth. The historic mission is to start in 2024, and the probe is to reach a pair of asteroids in 2026. It is about the double asteroid Didymos and Dimorphos.
The main asteroid is 780 meters in diameter and also has a satellite 160 meters in diameter. Didymos in October 2022 will be approx. 11 million kilometers from Earth. The task of the American device called DART will be to hit the asteroid and change its flight trajectory so that it does not hit our planet.
Meanwhile, the mission of the European HERA probe will be to get closer to the asteroids and carefully study them. Several CubeSat-type microsatellites will be launched from HERA into space, which will map the objects and record the course of the entire event. ESA also wants to test autonomous microdevice navigation. This technology could later be used in asteroid space mining missions.
According to the plan, the DART probe weighing 300 kilograms will hit a smaller asteroid at a speed of 6 km / s (22,000 km / h). It will be the first mission in human history to test the so-called space rock kinetic impact technology. Didymos belongs to the Amora group, i.e. objects that potentially threaten our planet, which is why it is such a great object for astronomers to research on the creation of the Earth protection system. The impact is expected to change the asteroid's orbit by a few millimeters. It seems little, but it is enough to change the trajectory over the distance of millions of kilometers of its flight so much that the object will bypass the Earth.
The Planetary Science Journal reports that when the probe hits the surface of the asteroid, rock material will be ejected into space, the stream of which will be directed towards our planet. Meteoroids bursting into the atmosphere can create a breathtaking spectacle of shooting stars. Let's just hope that no big rocks fall to Earth, because if it happens over metropolises, they can lead to a cataclysm.
The DART and HERA missions will undoubtedly be one of the most daring missions in human history. Interestingly, SpaceX will also join the project. Elon Musk's company will be responsible for launching the DART vehicle into space using the Falcon-9 rocket. The launch is to take place in June 2021 from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Let's keep our fingers crossed that the HERA / AIDA and DART missions are successful and that the scientists can achieve their goals. This is because the peaceful future of our existence on the Blue Planet will depend on it.