PUBLISHED: 18:50, Tue, Sep 15, 2020 | UPDATED: 19:16, Tue, Sep 15, 2020
The ESA is taking the tiny yet realistic risk of an errant asteroid one day slamming into the Earth extremely seriously. Such a collision has the potential to threaten all life on Earth. But despite no known asteroids posing such an existential threat, the ESA is pushing ahead with plans to probe a space rock up-close.
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The space agency has today awarded a €129.4 million (£118 million) contract to an industry consortium led by German space company OHB.
This contract is intended to cover the design, manufacture and testing of Hera, for the first-ever mission for planetary defence.
This unmanned mission will perform sustained exploration of a double asteroid system.
Hera will work in tandem with NASA's Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) probe.
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Asteroid news: The European Space Agency is readying its planetary defence mission (Image: ESA)
Hera will work in tandem with NASA's Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) probe (Image: ESA)
Together, they will intercept with a binary asteroid system, a poorly-understood category constituting approximately 15 percent of asteroids.
Hera is the European contribution to an international planetary defence collaboration dubbed the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA).
NASA’s part of the project is scheduled to blast-off in July 2021 and will first perform a what has been described as a “kinetic impact” on the smaller of the two bodies.
This involves crashing an impactor spacecraft into the