Self-driving Spacecraft Set for Planetary Defense Expedition

Hera uses infrared to scan impact crater (Credit: ESA–ScienceOffice.org)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Engineers designing ESA’s Hera planetary defence mission to the Didymos asteroid pair are developing advanced technology to let the spacecraft steer itself through space, taking a similar approach to self-driving cars.

“If you think self-driving cars are the future on Earth, then Hera is the pioneer of autonomy in deep space,” explains Paolo Martino, lead systems engineer of ESA’s proposed Hera mission. “While the mission is designed to be fully operated manually from ground, the new technology will be tested once the core mission objectives are achieved and higher risks can be taken.”

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CubeSats Joining Hera Mission to Asteroid System

Hera at Didymos (Credit: ESA–ScienceOffice.org)

PARIS (ESA PR) — When ESA’s planned Hera mission journeys to its target binary asteroid system, it will not be alone. The spacecraft will carry two tiny CubeSats for deployment around – and eventual landing on – the Didymos asteroids. Each companion spacecraft will be small enough to fit inside a briefcase, as compared to the desk-sized Hera.

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ESA Choosing CubeSats for Hera Asteroid Mission

Hera CubeSats deployed. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — As the world marvels at the hopping mini-rovers deployed on asteroid Ryugu by Japan’s Hayabusa2, ESA is due to decide on the CubeSats planned for delivery to a binary asteroid system by its proposed Hera mission.

CubeSats are nanosatellites based on standardised 10 cm-sized units. This week an ESA evaluation board decides which two ‘6-unit’ CubeSat missions will ride with the next-decade Hera mission to the Didymos asteroid system. The CubeSats will be deployed around the smaller of the two bodies for eventual landing.

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Asteroid Day Postage Stamps Ready for Delivery

Asteroid Day postcard (Credit: ESA / ScienceOffice.org / Luxembourg Post )

PARIS (ESA PR) — In a unique cooperation between ESA, Asteroid Day and Luxembourg Post, a limited edition set of first-day stamps and postcards is being released for this year’s Asteroid Day.

Asteroid Day is a global campaign to increase awareness about asteroids and the threats and opportunities they pose. Celebrated each year on 30 June, Asteroid Day marks the largest asteroid impact event experienced on Earth in recorded history, the 1908 Tunguska event.

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Earth’s First Mission to Binary Asteroid to Further Planetary Defense

NASA’s DART spacecraft is due to collide with the smaller body of the Didymos binary asteroid system in October 2022. ESA’s Hera mission will survey ‘Didymoon’ post-impact and assess how its orbit has been changed by the collision, to turn this one-off experiment into a workable planetary defence technique. (Credit: ESA–ScienceOffice.org)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Planning for humankind’s first mission to a binary asteroid system has entered its next engineering phase. ESA’s proposed Hera mission would also be Europe’s contribution to an ambitious planetary defence experiment.

Named for the Greek goddess of marriage, Hera would fly to the Didymos pair of Near-Earth asteroids: the 780 m-diameter mountain-sized main body is orbited by a 160 m moon, informally called ‘Didymoon’, about the same size as the Great Pyramid of Giza.

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NASA, DLR Fund Long Duration Astronaut Health Research

Crew members for the current simulation missions stand in front of the NASA Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA). HERA 10 “launched” on May 2 for a 30-day mission to the near-Earth asteroid “Geographos.” The crew members are (left to right): Chris Matty of Houston, Texas; Oscar Mathews of Virginia Beach, Virginia; Ron Franco of Lockport, New York; and Casey Stedman of Olympia, Washington. (Credit: NASA) Subject: Crew photo for HERA 10 crew. Photographer: Bill Stafford
Crew members for the current simulation missions stand in front of the NASA Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA). HERA 10 “launched” on May 2 for a 30-day mission to the near-Earth asteroid “Geographos.” The crew members are (left to right): Chris Matty of Houston, Texas; Oscar Mathews of Virginia Beach, Virginia; Ron Franco of Lockport, New York; and Casey Stedman of Olympia, Washington. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR — NASA’s Human Research Program and the German Space Agency (DLR) will fund six proposals to investigate possible changes in the behavioral health and performance of astronauts on future deep space exploration missions. The selected proposals aim to address the impact of the spaceflight environment on various aspects of astronaut health, including cognition, sleep loss and team functioning. This work is helping NASA develop the knowledge and countermeasures necessary to ensure astronauts remain healthy as we venture beyond low-Earth orbit to visit an asteroid and eventually the journey to Mars.

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