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HERA satellite investigates asteroid 'Dimorphos': 'If it hits us, we have a problem'

HERA satellite investigates asteroid 'Dimorphos': 'If it hits us, we have a problem'

Technology and innovation20 Apr 24 at 3:00 pmauthor: Lotte van Coevorden

The European Space Agency (ESA) will use its Hera satellite to find out the shape of the asteroid Dimorphos. Two years ago, NASA launched the DART satellite to the asteroid. He was able to push the celestial body, which is 160 meters high, slightly out of its orbit, as seen through telescopes on Earth. Now ESA is once again conducting large-scale research, “because if dimorphos hits Earth, there will be a really big problem,” says Michiel van Pelt, an engineer at ESA.

HERA satellite investigates asteroid 'Dimorphos': 'If it hits us, we have a problem'

“Hera looks like a poorly packaged package,” Van Pelt told reporter Martin de Rijk. The satellite is covered with all kinds of insulating materials, especially blankets. The top of Hera goes to look at the asteroid. This is where all the cameras are located and also two small satellites are launched. “This allows you to take a little more risk.” “If something goes wrong, it's not the big satellite that malfunctioned,” the engineer says. “This way the asteroid can also be seen from different sides at the same time.”

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Paolo Martino, chief engineer of the Hera mission, said that the spacecraft will launch from Kennedy Space Center aboard a Falcon 9 in October this year. “This rocket will send Hera into the asteroid at more than four miles per second.” The satellite will then be five hundred million kilometers from Earth, “these are truly cosmic distances,” says Martino.

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Long trip

The chief engineer says it will take nearly two years to achieve this meeting. We will chase the asteroid through space until our speeds are equal. This way we can spend several months attending and studying it completely.

“Hera looks like a poorly wrapped package,” Van Pelt told reporter Martin de Rijk. The satellite is covered with all kinds of insulating materials, especially blankets.

Van Pelt “definitely” expects to see the crater that formed after the impact with NASA's DART mission. “The only question is how deep and how big.” Furthermore, the European Space Agency wants to know what is inside the asteroid and what materials were released during the collision. Van Pelt asserts that if Dimorphos were to be hit, there would be a really big problem. “That's why we first have to look at what's causing the DART effect, so we can prevent it from getting here. What we're investigating now is how we can be as prepared as possible for it,” Van Pelt said.

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