The next mission of the European Space Agency asteroid will rely on the same technology as the vehicles that drive alone.
Called by the Greek goddess of marriage, the ESA candidate's mission to Hera will be directed through the space on the way to the binary system of the asteroid Didymos.
"If you think that self-driving cars are the future of Earth, then Hera is a pioneer in autonomy in the deep universe," says Paolo Martino, a leading system engineer at the proposed mission.
The probe, as described by ESA's Navigator and Supervisor (GNC) engineer, Jesus Gil Fernandez, will function as an autonomous vehicle, "combining data from different sensors to build a coherent model of the environment."
"The most important source of data will be the Asteroid Framing Camera," he said in a statement, "combined with star-tracer inputs, laser heights, thermal infrared cameras, plus inertial sensors including accelerometers."
Together with these forces, Hera can safely and autonomously move as fast as 218 meters from the smaller of two asteroids: Didymos B, 350 feet wide, known as "Didymoon".
Due to its launch in October 2023 and set to reach its goal three years later, Hera will move in three different ways as it approaches the orbit planet; The third and final mode of operation is based on autonomous monitoring of features without the absolute reference.
"Although the mission is designed to fully maneuver manually from the ground, new technology will be tested once the mission's core objectives are attained and greater risks can be taken," Martino said.
Small asteroids hit the Earth almost daily, but most of the straw burns in the upper atmosphere, leaving no visible traces in our world. Objects larger than 0.6 miles – like a meteorite in Chelyabinsk, caused by an asteroid near the Earth at about 22-yard – can have a devastating effect.
In hopes of escaping the catastrophe, NASA has recently begun to develop a spaceship to break the asteroids and cut them off the road to our planet.
A double-asteroid, or DART, redirect test will be the first space mission to show off the asteroid by using a kinetic impact element (that is, hit the satellite to move its orbit).
In October 2022, the size of the refrigerator is expected to sail to the asteroid system and use the autonomous targeting system to direct it to Didymoon.
Then fireworks begin: DART hits planetary speeds nine times faster than bullets – about 3.7 miles per second – which makes it so slightly out of balance.
The Earth Observatory can then see the impact and observe the change in orbit Didymos B around Didymos A, allowing scientists "to better determine kinetic influence abilities as an asteroid mitigation strategy," NASA says.
DART and Hera are part of the International Asteroid Impact and Reversing Assessment (AIDA) mission.
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