The OSIRIS-REx Probe Sets Out to Study Infamous Near Earth Asteroid
The OSIRIS-REx probe, which recently completed NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission, is now embarking on a new voyage to study the near Earth asteroid Apophis. Initially designed to collect samples from the space rock Bennu, the spacecraft reoriented itself towards Apophis after releasing its reentry capsule containing pristine material from the early solar system. The extended journey will take OSIRIS-REx closer to the sun than originally planned, passing by the orbit of Venus multiple times and revisiting Earth, before finally rendezvousing with Apophis on April 8, 2029.
While OSIRIS-REx won’t be collecting samples from Apophis, it will spend 18 months studying the asteroid through imaging, mapping, and a close-up rendezvous maneuver. This will provide valuable insights into the subsurface, composition, and properties of the asteroid. Apophis, once considered a potential threat to Earth, is now an opportunity for scientists to study and learn more about the evolution of the solar system. Its next close approach to Earth will occur on Friday, April 13, 2029, offering humanity a chance to explore and understand this celestial neighbor.
Apophis is a typical near Earth asteroid, composed mainly of silicate and nickel iron. Studying it will shed light on similar objects and their formation, providing clues about the origins of the Earth and other planets. Additionally, Apophis can help in planetary protection efforts, as it shares common properties with other asteroids that may pose a collision risk to our planet. The OSIRIS-REx probe’s findings at Bennu, where the surface behaved unexpectedly, have shown that appearances can be deceiving. The close encounter with Apophis will reveal its true nature and add more pieces to the puzzle of understanding our cosmic neighborhood.
While OSIRIS-REx’s mission to study Apophis is underway, scientists are also considering additional missions to the asteroid. NASA’s Small Bodies Assessment Group has proposed flying by Apophis before its close encounter with Earth to better understand the consequences of planetary tides and the asteroid’s interior structure. Furthermore, a workshop is planned for 2024 to explore collaboration opportunities for Earth-based observations and in situ investigations of Apophis. These endeavors will expand our knowledge of these primordial objects and aid in the protection of our planet.
– The NASA probe …, Space.com
– Near-Earth asteroid Apophis a good target for in situ exploration …, Space.com