The Hera mission and its three satellites must learn how to effectively deflect an asteroid -
In 2024, three satellites of the European Hera mission will analyze an asteroid that has been struck by a NASA machine.
The aim of the operation is to develop means of defense to deviate their trajectory and protect the Earth.
The scientific manager of the mission, the French astrophysicist Patrick Michel, details his expectations.
It is the least probable natural threat which weighs on the Earth but it is also the only one… which one can foresee.
Anticipate, but not yet avoid.
Learning how to deflect the course of an asteroid, which would spin straight towards the Blue Planet, is precisely the whole purpose of the “Hera” mission that the European Space Agency (Esa) validated on Tuesday.
A contract for the construction of three satellites at 130 million euros has been signed.
“We have been working on this project for fifteen years.
And we are entering its really active phase, ”explains Ian Carnelli, mission manager for ESA.
And it is the astrophysicist Patrick Michel, research director at the CNRS, at the Côte d'Azur observatory, who took the scientific reins of this epic.
What does this mission consist of?
We have worked for years to try to determine, in the lab, what means would be necessary to change the trajectory of an asteroid.
The idea is to analyze this directly in space.
And for that, the European Hera mission will be based on that of NASA called Dart.
Launched at the end of 2021, their satellite will come into contact with a double asteroid, which represents 15% of all asteroids.
He will strike Dimorphos, the "moon" of Didymos to deflect it.
This is called a kinetic impactor.
The three satellites of Hera, launched in 2024, will arrive at the crime scene three years later to analyze it.
Why was Dimorphos chosen?
Because at the time of impact, it will be very close to Earth, 15 million kilometers away, and we can already start our calculations with telescopes.
What do we hope to find?
Ultimately, this should allow us to create validated defense devices to use in the event of a threat.
And for that, we must know everything about these bodies.
We will see how the shock modified its orbit.
What are the damage.
One of the satellites must also do a radar sounding of the interior of the asteroid.
It will be completely new.
Today marks an important milestone for the #HeraMission to test #asteroiddeflection!
ESA has awarded a € 129.4 million contract covering the detailed design, manufacturing and testing of #Hera, our first mission for planetary defense 👉https: //t.co/WL3XqQaSYr #SpaceSafety pic.twitter.com/H43nnBaEGm
- ESA (@esa) September 15, 2020
So the threat is real?
Dinosaurs could attest to this.
Today, we know how to predict the trajectories of asteroids for the next 50 or even 100 years.
If there is no risk identified for that period, there is nothing to say that this will not be the case later.
The assembly of this mission was complicated.
Funding was difficult to secure, but in the end, 300 million euros is not really expensive to pay for life insurance for all humanity.
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