It’s been nearly half a century since humans left footprints on the moon and during that time, human space exploration has largely centered on manned low-Earth orbit missions and unmanned scientific exploration. But now, high levels of private funding, advances in technology and growing public-sector interest is renewing the call to look toward the stars.
We’re proud to highlight Expando’s participation in world renowned project Hera. A mission set on detecting near-Earth Objects (NEOs), such as asteroids and meteors, that pose a threat to earth. Here’s everything you need to know about planetary defense and the role we’re playing in it.
Planetary Defense and asteroid deflection
Planetary Defense involves detecting, monitoring, understanding, and mitigating, NEOs. Whether or not an object is classified as a NEO depends on its orbit, size, and composition. Take the very first discovered NEO, Eros for example. Eros, the first asteroid to be studied from orbit, has a length of about 16.8 kilometers.
For the NEOs that may impact Earth, Planetary Defense involves preventing or mitigating their impact. Prevention involves deflecting or disrupting the NEO’s orbit, and mitigation involves taking measures to protect people, such as evacuation, in cases where a NEO cannot be prevented from impacting Earth.
Discovering asteroids that may hit the Earth
There have been a number of academic and some technical studies that illustrate just how a devastating asteroid impact might be avoided. Asteroids outnumber comets 100 to 1 in the inner solar system, so asteroids pose more of a nearer-term threat to our planet.
To successfully mitigate a threatening asteroid we need to discover and physically characterize it in a timely manner that allows for the appropriate response.
If the object could be found far enough ahead of time and our space technology used to deflect it from its Earth threatening trajectory, it would be a tremendous demonstration of our space-faring capabilities!
Image: The European Space Agency
NEOs are a real risk
NEOs do hit Earth. A more recent impact did occur in 2013. An asteroid exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia. The asteroid was about 20 meters long and it is known as the third largest impact event in recorded history. The energy of its explosion was 6 to 33 times as much energy released from the atomic bomb detonation in Hiroshima during World War II.
In the rare event that a NEO does hit Earth, we need to be prepared to prevent it from happening or mitigate its impact. This is where project Hera comes in.
Understanding the risk is vital – which is why the European Space Agency (ESA) is building state-of-the-art Flyeye telescopes that will scan the sky for new asteroids. In the case that we discover one on a collision course with Earth, even if it has a small chance of impact, mitigation will matter. The best way to mitigate an asteroid threat is to deflect its orbit.
ESA’s upcoming Hera Mission
ESA’s upcoming planetary defence mission Hera that is set to launch in October 2024. Its objectives are to follow behind NASA’s asteroid impactor, DART, after it has impacted the 160 meter Dimorphos asteroid (the smaller body, or Moon, of the Didymos binary asteroid system).
Altogether, DART’s impact and Hera’s data will help us understand whether this technique could be used in future to deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. Extremely valuable information for future asteroid deflection missions and increases our understanding of asteroid geophysics as well as solar system formation and evolutionary processes.
Expando is a proud contributor of space components for the Hera mission. We work together with a network of organizations and projects contributing to the prevention efforts of this mission.
About Expando’s space technology
Expando provides advanced systems and services for commercial, military and government customers worldwide. With 20 years of experience, we have a broad portfolio that allows us to deliver high quality specialized solutions that push the boundaries in different environments, such as space, aerospace, defense, industrial and commercial avionics.
Expando AB is a regional expert offering planetary defence components and integration projects. We act as representative or distributor for first class suppliers and our aim is to be your long term reliable partner. Contact us to discuss your future projects.