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Europe’s Upcoming Asteroid Mission To Use Self-Driving Tech

Europe’s asteroid mission will be launched in 2023. This mission will be based on navigational technology that is now used in self-driving technology. The asteroid named as Greek goddess Hera is a mission about planetary defense, which will fly to 780 meters wide asteroid Didymos and also its small satellite 525 foot wide Didymoon. Though most missions into deep-space category depend on Earth based controllers for navigational commands, Hera has a built in navigation system which functions automatically. Because of this, Hera will be able to steer on its own as per convenience and situation in space instead of waiting for commands and signals from earth.

According to lead systems engineer of Hera Paolo Martino, if self-driving cars can be considered earth’s future then Hera, in real sense, is the autonomy pioneer for the deep space operations. Navigation system of its own will help spacecraft flying close to both the asteroid and its satellite body and take high resolution pictures of their surface as per details revealed by officials of ESA. The spacecraft operations depends upon data collected from sensors, lasers and cameras on its surface to gauge the environment around itself and guide itself forward said guidance and navigation control engineer Jesus Gil Fernandez of ESA.

During the spacecraft’s first mission however it will not rely entirely on autopilot and will be guided from the earth. Only after major objectives of the mission are complete will the new system’s autonomous capabilities will be tested. Partly, AIDA mission also included a spacecraft from NASA destined to reaching the same asteroid. The main aim of Double Asteroid Redirectional Test mission of NASA was to crash the spacecraft on its surface and bring back two small cubical satellites from the asteroid’s surface. The goal of DART mission is to hit the asteroid while Hera’s will be orbiting the asteroid and take snaps of the smashing event from the distance. Then it will be going closer and take the pictures of the impact crater.