The next asteroid mission could be launched in 2023, and a self-driving spacecraft named Hera could conduct it. In the proposed mission, Hera would visit asteroid 65803, named Didymos ( that is 2,550 foot-wide, or 780 meters) and its little satellite, Didymoon ( that is 525 foot-wide or 160 meters). Typically, space missions are done with controllers from Earth for sending navigation commands; but with Hera, everything is changing.
How will Hera work?
Hera will have an automatic navigation system built in for allowing it to lead itself in real time. The spacecraft would work on data from sensors, cameras, and lasers. Paolo Martino, the lead system engineer for Hera, says that if self-driving cars are the future on Earth, Hera, the self-driven spacecraft will be the future in deep space. Due to its autonomous navigation system, Hera can be able to fly closer to Didymos and Didymoon. This realization can offer the chance of getting better high-resolution images of their surfaces.
However, on the first mission, Hera won’t be only on autopilot. The spacecraft is designed to be operated from Earth as well, and the new system won’t be tested until all the essential objectives from the mission are complete.
What Type of Mission Hera Will Have?
Hera will be part of the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA) mission, and NASA will include another spacecraft that will have the same direction as Hera. NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission has the purpose of landing a spacecraft on the surface of Didymos. After that, the spacecraft will bring two slam CubeSats for future examinations.
Summing up, NASA’s DART mission is to collapse on the asteroid, but Hera’s mission is to orbit the asteroid and observe everything from a safe distance. The goal of this mission is to find out if it’s possible to save Earth from a future or potentially catastrophic asteroid strike.