ESA Moves Forward With Its First ‘Planetary Defense’ Mission

The European Space Agency (ESA) officially announced its first planetary defense mission to deflect asteroids from Earth. 

The $153.3 million project, called Hera, was initiated under an official contract on Tuesday, September 15, and is expected to be ready to launch by October 2024 and reach its destination by the end of 2026. Hera will travel to a near-North binary asteroid system called 65803 Didymos (or the Didymos pair), to perform six months of close-up studies. 

Hera is part a collaboration with NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) spacecraft as part of the Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment (AIDA). 

A digital rendition of Hera scanning DART’s impact crater. ESA – Science Office

NASA’s DART (scheduled to launch in the summer of 2021) will perform a kinetic impact on the smaller of the two asteroids in an attempt to alter its course. Hera’s mission will follow up on DART with a

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