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Hera is a candidate mission to find out more about binary asteroid systems and investigate asteroid deflection. It will visit the Didymos asteroid system, which includes a 780 metre-wide mountain-sized main body orbited by a 160 metre-wide moon, informally called ‘Didymoon’. Didymoon is about the same size as the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Hera’s up-close observations of Didymos will help prove whether asteroids can be deflected by spacecraft, which may one day be a vital planetary defence mechanism.
Hera is building upon technology used in previous space adventures (tech heritage), such as ESA’s Rosetta, Proba V and Lunar Lander missions and will test out new space technology for future deep-space missions (future applications).
For example, Hera will carry two briefcase-sized CubeSats that will be able to get closer to Didymos than Hera itself will. The CubeSats will provide different perspectives and complementary observations.
Hera will also demonstrate laser communications across an unprecedented void. This would return results to scientists several times faster than standard radio signals – a factor that will be vital for communicating with future deep-space missions to avoid huge communication delays.
Other technology to be used in future missions that is being tested through Hera includes visual navigation, multispectral imaging and close proximity operations.