The Hera Mission

The European Space Agency has greenlit the Hera Mission with the mandate of slamming a spacecraft into an asteroid.

What is Hera?

The Hera mission is the contribution of the European Space Agency to the international double-spacecraft collaboration. It is named after the Greek goddess of marriage. It is due to travel to the near-Earth asteroid pair, Didymos, in 2024. At first, NASA, with its DART mission, will hit the smaller of these asteroids with a kinetic impact. Hera will soon follow with a detailed post-impact survey to understand this grand-scale experiment and form a repeatable planetary defense technique.

What is NASA’s DART mission?

DART or Double Asteroid Redirection Test is a project aimed at targetting asteroids Disymoon as a part of the planetary defense programme. It will crash itself on the moonlet using an onboard camera and an autonomous navigation device. The collision is meant to change the speed of the moonlet in its orbit.

Why were DART and Hera conceived?

DART and Hera are a part of the international ‘Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment’ experiment. They are individually valuable missions which when flown in concert boost the scientific and technological return by tenfold. They also propagate the message that international cooperation is the only way to achieve any successful space innovation.

Why does Earth need a planetary defense system?

The scientific community is aware of over 25,000 near-Earth objects that orbit the Sun on a trajectory that brings them closer to our planet each day. Any near-Earth object which is 140 meters or more in size and comes within 0.05 AU (astronomical unit) to Earth is labeled hazardous. As of now, we know of about 900 near-Earth objects measuring more than 1 km which are capable of devastating the planet. This is why scientists across the world are working on asteroid deflection systems to ensure if ever such a risk arrives, we are prepared to tackle it.

Conclusion

International cooperation in matters that involve survival is not rare. Countries have made great progress through cooperation in the fields of science and tech. Planetary defense is one such avenue where all nations capable of helping must have all hands on deck for the sake of the planet’s survival.

Question for UPSC Mains:
The international cooperation for planetary defense has been making rapid progress in recent years. Discuss the initiative.

Published: January 12, 2020 | Modified:October 15, 2020

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