NASA, ESA Combine Efforts on Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment Mission

Rodiano Bonacci
Settembre 4, 2019

The aim is to go for the smaller body of the double Didymos asteroids between Earth and Mars.

It is an ambitious double-spacecraft mission to deflect an asteroid in space, to prove the technique as a viable method of planetary defence.

The Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment (AIDA)-a collaboration between the two space agencies-is created to demonstrate that such a technique could work if we need to protect our planet from a collision with a large space object.

One spacecraft would be sent to hit an asteroid, while another would be sent out to obverse and gather data from the the crash site. During September 11-13, asteroid researchers and spacecraft engineers from around the world will gather in Rome to discuss its progress. DART will collide with the asteroid at speed of 6.6km per second in September 2022.

A miniature satellite known as LICIACube (Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging Asteroids) will launch with DART and be deployed before the collision to observe the moment of impact. The results provided by Hera will help ascertain the effectiveness of the collision and verify if this experiment can actually be used as a reliable method to dissipate a real threat.

It would also launch later than the primary collision mission, in October 2024, taking a further two years to carry out its journey across space.

"DART can perform its mission without Hera - the effect of its impact on the asteroid's orbit will be measurable using Earth ground-based observatories alone", said Ian Carnelli, who is managing the Hera mission.

"But flying the two missions together will greatly magnify their overall knowledge return". Hera will also be the first mission to rendezvous with a binary asteroid system, a mysterious class of object believed to make up around 15 percent of all known asteroids.

"Our mission will test a variety of important new technologies, including deep space CubeSats, inter-satellite links and autonomous image-based navigation techniques, while also providing us with valuable experience of low-gravity operations", Carnelli said. While the target asteroid could do serious damage at about 525 feet across, it's still small and slow.

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