The European ministers, who are in charge of the European Space Agency (ESA), have finally approved the Hera anti-asteroid mission. The $320 million mission aims to test if deflection could save the Earth from getting hit by an asteroid. More than 1,200 scientists had rallied for the governments to provide necessary support to NASA and ESA for their joint asteroid deflection mission.
How will the mission help?
Reports suggest that ESA and NASA will send a pair of spacecraft to a double-asteroid system known as Didymos. As per plan, NASA will first crash its DART probe into the smaller asteroid (Didymoon) at a speed of around 13,320 mph and it will be recorded by an Italian Cubesat called LICIACube.
Later, Hera will carry two CubeSats to analyse the effects of the impact crater and measure the mass of the asteroid. The CubeSats will act like drones and fly close to the asteroid's surface before touching down.
Vital data about the asteroid
The scientists could get vital data from the briefcase-sized spacecraft about the asteroid which may eventually help them understand its composition. ESA said that the whole purpose of this mission is to "turn asteroid deflection into a well-understood planetary defense technique."
The experts believe that they should be able to measure even the smallest effects of DART on its trajectory as Didymoon orbits it. Reports said if the asteroid impacts the Earth, it could destroy an entire city as the smaller asteroid is of the size of the Great Pyramid.
However, the mission is quite difficult as both the asteroids are relatively small and this is the first time a spacecraft will fly to such tiny space bodies. "We really need to follow carefully [around 2,000 near-Earth objects] so as not to join the collection of wonderful dinosaurs here in Berlin," Max Planck Institute researcher Holger Sierks told Space.com earlier this month.