Participation in the Hera space programme
The Royal Observatory of Belgium will provide the gravimeter that European Space Agency (ESA) will send to the asteroid Dimorphos as part of an international planetary defence programme.
It is the GRASS gravimeter, an instrument designed and developed by the Royal Observatory of Belgium, in collaboration with the Spanish company EMXYS, that is due to be sent on board ESA's Hera spacecraft in 2024. It will undertake a long three-year journey of several million kilometres through space to reach the asteroid.
GRASS will then be the first gravimeter to land on an asteroid. And by 2027, it should be sending valuable data on the mass distribution, internal structure and dynamics of Dimorphos to Earth. This collection of information will strengthen the knowledge base for future strategies to mitigate the potential threat of asteroid collisions with Earth. Indeed, this European mission is part of an international programme whose first phase consists of hitting this asteroid using a NASA spacecraft to divert it from its orbit.
The Royal Observatory of Belgium, which works under the aegis of the Belgian Federal Science Policy (BELSPO), welcomes this mission to avoid a hypothetical Armageddon.