NASA’s DART mission has a sequel. How Europe’s HERA will explore an asteroid impact aftermath.

The European Hera mission will follow NASA’s DART asteroid-deflecting spacecraft to the binary space rock Didymos and detail the aftermath of DART’s collision with the smaller of the two asteroids, Dimorphos. It will even attempt to peek inside the asteroid duo in a scientific first. 

According to the European Space Agency’s (ESA) original plans, Hera would have witnessed DART‘s suicidal encounter with Didymos’ moon Dimorphos in 2022 firsthand. But initial hesitation among ESA’s member states led to funding delays. As a result, this investigator spacecraft will only arrive at the scene more than two years after the cataclysmic impact. The “dust” will have settled at that point, and astronomers will have known from Earth-based observations whether DART achieved its goal of altering Dimorphos’ orbit around the larger Didymos. 

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