May 28, 2024

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The European Space Agency presents a satellite that will protect Earth from meteorite impacts

The European Space Agency presents a satellite that will protect Earth from meteorite impacts

The Hera satellite is used for research

Noos News

  • Julius Moorman

    Economics Editor

  • Julius Moorman

    Economics Editor

More than 65 million years ago, dinosaurs were startled by a large meteorite that struck Earth. The rocky projectile was 10 kilometers in diameter, and left a crater slightly larger than half the size of the Netherlands. Then the world remained surrounded by a huge cloud of dust for two years. Three-quarters of all animal species did not survive this darkness.

To prevent something like this from happening again, NASA and the European Space Agency have begun a joint project to change the orientation of asteroids. The idea is that if an asteroid is going to hit Earth again, we can prevent that.

At the press day held in Noordwijk, various media were invited to see the European contribution to the “Planetary Defense Mission” in person: the Hera satellite.

This satellite looks like this:

Collision between an asteroid and Earth? This satellite should (partly) prevent that

Two years ago, NASA attempted to force a collision with the asteroid Demorphos 7 million miles away in an attempt to change its direction. Paolo Martino, project manager at the European Space Agency, says that this mission was a resounding success. Dimorphos was hit at a speed of 6 kilometers per second and thus actually changed its course. “We were never happy to lose contact with a spaceship inside Control Center “Everyone was cheering.”

It is not common for the Earth to be hit by a meteorite. A total of 190 meteorite impacts are known to have hit Earth. The Moon has also been subjected to regular strikes and owes its distinctive volcanic landscape to this.

If that happens, the consequences could be enormous. In 2013, a bus the size of a school bus was struck in Russia, injuring 1,200 people. Thanks to dashboard cameras for motorists, there are many images to impress:

“When NASA managed to hit Dimorphos, of course it destroyed their spacecraft. From Earth we were able to determine that there was a change in trajectory. But to collect accurate data about this, you really have to go there,” Martino explains.

In addition, Hera will study the asteroid's surface, mass and composition. The impact crater is also being studied closely. This helps scientists understand how effective the collision was and what would need to happen in the future to change the direction of other asteroids.

No problem

The plan is to create a system in the future that will make it relatively easy to change the direction of asteroids that are on their way to colliding with Earth. But for now, according to Martino, there is no need to worry: “We have already shown that it is possible, and we also know for most objects years in advance whether they will be in the region, which gives us enough time to prepare ourselves.” get ready.”

Hera is currently undergoing final tests in Noordwijk before being sent on its mission to Dimorphos in October aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.