Hera: Our planetary defence mission

Hera is going to show us things no-one’s ever seen before… This ESA mission will be humanity’s first-ever spacecraft to visit a double asteroid Didymos This asteroid is typical of the thousands that pose an impact risk to our planet Imagine a mountain in the sky with another rock about the size of the Great Pyramid swinging around it that’s Didymos And just the seemingly tiny moon would be big enough to destroy a city if it were to collide with Earth But we’re going to find out if it’s possible to deflect it This is going to be really, really hard Aiming at a 160-metre-wide target across millions of kilometers of void Could we stop an asteroid hitting planet Earth? The dinosaurs couldn’t but we humans have the benefit of knowledge and science
on our side! Hera is led by a multinational team of scientists
and engineers humanity’s ‘makers and doers’ Right now all we have is many years of research and theories But Hera will revolutionise our understanding
of asteroids and how to protect ourselves from them First, NASA will slam its DART spacecraft
into the smaller asteroid at more than six kilometres a second Then ESA comes in Hera will map the impact crater left by DART and measure the asteroid’s mass Knowing this mass is key to determining what’s inside and knowing for certain whether we would be able to deflect it Next come our briefcase-sized CubeSats If you think of Hera like an aeroplane then CubeSats will operate more like drones able to take more risks flying closer to the asteroid carrying state-of-the-art science instruments eventually touching down The scale of this experiment is huge one day these results could be crucial for saving
our planet Hera’s up-close observations after DART’s impact will help prove whether asteroids can be deflected Prove whether this is an effective planetary
defence technique so that if an asteroid ever poses a real threat to Earth we’ll be ready.


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