An international planetary defense mission involving NASA and ESA will now include two CubeSats. APEX (Asteroid Prospection Explorer) and Juventas will ride with ESA’s Hera spacecraft, which is set to arrive at the Didymos binary asteroid system shortly after NASA’s DART (Double Asteroid Redirect Test) spacecraft has impacted the smaller of the two objects, Didymoon. Hera will arrive to take observations of the DART aftermath as part of the international Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment (AIDA) experiment.
DART and Hera were conceived together as part of the AIDA objectives. Although parts of the mission have been refined over the years, mainly due to funding challenges, a key mission goal is to combine the DART and Hera missions for overall scientific and technological return while protecting the international cooperation element that will be in play should a real-life scenario – currently reserved for Hollywood movies – calls for options to protect the planet from an asteroid strike.
As opposed to the need to fly Bruce Willis and a ragtag team of deepsea drillers, the saviors of the planet will be robotic spacecraft.
To test potential techniques in “deflecting” an asteroid – one of the preferred methods for mitigating a threat – DART ...