DARMSTADT, Germany – The European space agency (ESA) signed a deal worth 129 million euros ($154 million) on Tuesday to make a spacecraft for a joint project with NASA looking at how to deflect an asteroid heading for Earth.
NASA is due to launch a spacecraft in June 2021 set on a collision course with the Dimorphos asteroid to test whether it would be possible to nudge objects that might be threatening Earth onto a safer path.
ESA will then launch its spacecraft — named Hera after the Greek goddess of marriage — in October 2024 to map the resulting impact crater and measure the asteroid’s mass, reaching the area in late 2026 for a six-month survey.
The mission is reminiscent of the 1998 film “Armageddon,” in which actor Bruce Willis plays a member of a team sent to destroy an asteroid to save Earth.
“We want to try for the first time to steer an asteroid on its