NASA Reroutes an Old Spacecraft to Visit A Large Asteroid On Its Way

NASA’s OSIRIS REx spacecraft visited the distant Bennu Asteroid in October 2020 and collected a sample. As it passes by Earth, it will deliver the sample to NASA on September 24, 2023. Then it will embark on a new mission to explore an asteroid near Earth that could be a “planet killer.”

NASA has classified the Apophis asteroid as potentially hazardous. It is huge. Apophis is estimated to measure 1,100 feet/340 metres in diameter. This is about the same height of the Empire State Building in Manhattan, New York. Apophis will reach within 23,000 miles/37,000.

It will be visible from certain parts of Earth during that close pass.

OSIRIS – Apophis Explorer (OSIRIS – APEX) will be already in orbit around it when the new name is announced. NASA announced this week the first maneuver of the spacecraft toward Apophis will be made 30 days after it dropped its package in 2023.

Apophis will not pose any danger even though it will pass Earth within the orbits of our geosynchronous satellites 2029.

Why not visit it?

Scientists believe that its close pass in 2029 may have an effect on its future trajectory. Apophis will be making very close passes in 2060, 2068, according to scientists. Could the 2029 event be Apophis’ “Earth-resonant” impact trajectory?

Although it is unlikely, NASA would like to have as much information about Apophis as possible in order to be prepared in the event of an emergency.

Scientists could learn a lot from OSIRIS-APEX’s 2029 study of Apophis. This information could prove useful in the future, hundreds of years away when the massive asteroid poses a threat.

OSIRIS-APEX will spend 18 months studying the near-Earth Apophis asteroid in a mission extension of $200 million.

Dani DellaGiustina from the University of Arizona is the principal investigator of OSIRIS–APEX. “Apophis” is one of the most famous asteroids. It was thought that the impact of its close approach to Earth in 2029 would be a concern when it was discovered for the first time in 2004. “

The 2029 pass is the closest an asteroid that this size has come to Earth in the 50 years that asteroids have been closely monitored.

DellaGiustina stated that it is within one-tenth of the distance between Earth and moon in 2029’s encounter. “People in Europe, Africa and Asia will be able see it with their naked eyes. That’s how close it will become. We were thrilled to learn that the mission was extended.”

As Apophis orbits Apophis for 18 month, it will come close to Earth and fire its thrusters to expose its sub-surface. Scientists will be able to discover more about the asteroid’s composition. This will allow them to study the physical effects of Earth’s gravitational pull on the asteroid as it approaches in 2029.

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