NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, fresh off its successful mission to asteroid Bennu, is back in action. This time, it has been relaunched to study another fascinating celestial object, the asteroid Apophis. Scientists are particularly excited about this mission because Apophis is expected to pass within just 32,000 kilometers of Earth’s surface on April 13, 2029.
Apophis, named after the Egyptian god of Chaos, is a colossal asteroid with a diameter of 370 meters. It is classified as an “S-type” asteroid, primarily composed of silicate and nickel-iron materials. NASA has upgraded the spacecraft’s name to OSIRIS-APEX for the new mission, which is estimated to cost around $200 million.
One of the main objectives of the OSIRIS-APEX mission is to gather valuable information about how Apophis’s surface changes when it interacts with Earth’s gravity. The spacecraft will get as close as 25 meters to the asteroid’s surface, allowing scientists to extract essential data.
This close encounter between Apophis and Earth will also have a significant impact on the asteroid itself. The gravitational pull from our planet will alter Apophis’s orbit and even affect its day length. This unique opportunity has allowed NASA to delve deeper into researching planetary defense and the potential perturbations caused by asteroids.
Fortunately, after updated modeling and recent observations, scientists have ruled out any possibility of Apophis colliding with Earth during its close approach. This reassurance has provided NASA with the space to focus on studying the effects of this near miss.
Once Apophis completes its passage, OSIRIS-APEX will dedicate the next 18 months to scrutinizing the changes caused by its proximity to Earth. This extensive examination will shed light on the dynamic relationship between asteroids and our planet, allowing scientists to better understand these cosmic objects and enhance our preparedness for future encounters.
As OSIRIS-APEX embarks on its new mission to Apophis, the excitement within the scientific community grows. This expedition offers a window into the mysteries of our universe, showcasing the cutting-edge technology and expertise that NASA possesses. With each mission, we gain a deeper understanding of the cosmos and our place within it. Stay tuned for further updates on this enthralling journey.
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