Nasa to send spacecraft to ‘God of Chaos’ asteroid as Apophis barrels toward Earth for never-before-seen
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, having completed its mission to collect samples from the asteroid Bennu, is now tasked with studying the asteroid Apophis during its close encounter with Earth in April 2029. Renamed OSIRIS-APEX (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security – Apophis Explorer), the spacecraft aims to capture changes in Apophis caused by Earth’s gravity during the historic close pass.
Apophis, dubbed the “God of Chaos,” is over 1,000 feet wide and is expected to come within 20,000 miles of Earth’s surface, an event occurring only once every 7,500 years for asteroids of its size. Although initial estimates suggested a 3% chance of collision, subsequent analysis ruled out any impact during its 2029 or 2036 passages.
OSIRIS-APEX will use cameras to photograph Apophis two weeks before its closest approach, then closely monitor changes for a year and a half. Unlike its Bennu mission, the spacecraft won’t physically touch Apophis but will descend within 16 feet, using thrusters to stir up surface materials for analysis. Scientists anticipate unprecedented insights into planetary formation processes and potential discoveries, building on lessons learned from the Bennu mission.
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