Nasa is due to launch a spacecraft in June 2021 set on a collision course with the Dimorphos asteroid to test whether it would be possible to nudge objects that might be threatening Earth onto a safer path.
ESA will then launch its spacecraft – named Hera after the Greek goddess of marriage – in October 2024 to map the resulting impact crater and measure the asteroid’ mass, reaching the area in late 2026 for a six-month survey.
Hera, together with the Nasa spacecraft Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART), would be “humankind’ first probe to rendezvous with a binary asteroid system,” a little-explored class that made up around 15 per cent of all known asteroids, ESA noted.
— ADVERTISEMENT —
The mission is reminiscent of the 1998 film Armageddon, in which actor Bruce Willis plays a member of a team sent to destroy an asteroid to save Earth.