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European space agency signs deal for asteroid defence mission

Darmstadt, Germany: The European Space Agency (ESA) has signed a deal worth €129 million ($208 million) 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.

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