Hera – named after the Greek goddess of marriage – is a candidate ESA mission that will be humankind’s first probe to rendezvous with a binary asteroid system, a little understood class making up around 15% of all known asteroids.
Hera will demonstrate multiple novel technologies, such as autonomous navigation around the asteroid (like modern driverless cars on Earth), and gather crucial scientific data, to help scientists and future mission planners better understand asteroid compositions and structures.
Due to launch in 2024, Hera would travel to a binary asteroid system – the Didymos pair of near-Earth asteroids. The 780 metre-diameter mountain-sized main body is orbited by a 160 metre-wide moon, informally called ‘Didymoon’, which is about the same size as the Great Pyramid of Giza.
This artist’s impression is taken from the video Hera: ESA’s Planetary Defence Mission.