SPACE — NASA and the European Space Agency are joining hands for a planetary defense mission in order to learn how to protect Earth from a possible asteroid collision.
The ESA is preparing for the Hera mission that will gather data from Didymoon, the accompanying moonlet of a binary asteroid system called Didymos, years after NASA crashes a spacecraft into it through its Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART.
According to NASA, the binary asteroid system is located roughly 11 million kilometers from Earth.
NASA's DART spacecraft will be guided by an onboard camera and an autonomous real-time navigation system as it makes its way to the binary asteroid.
By 2022, NASA aims to crash onto the surface of Didymoon at a speed of roughly 6 kilometers per second in order to change the speed and direction of the asteroid.
Didymoon is 160 meters in width.
This is roughly the width of the Great Pyramid of Giza, according to the American space agency.
The Hera spacecraft will then research the crater formed by the DART experiment in 2026.
According to an ESA news release, the spacecraft will collect surface samples, as well as data about the shape and dimensions of the crater.
Hera will also use thermal imaging technology to examine the asteroid's structure.
The European Space Agency says the experiment will provide "valuable insights" into the history and origins of our solar system.
The agency explained in a news release that the study would provide information on whether or not this technique would work to deflect an asteroid if one ever heads our way.