After NASA’s successful delivery of the first asteroid sample collected in space, the mission Osiris-Rex now renamed Osiris-Apex, embarked on a new journey, this time to study an asteroid approaching Earth in just a few years.
Apophis, a space rock approximately 366 meters in diameter, approaches 32,187 kilometers from Earth in approx Five and a half years, which is closer than the satellites orbiting our planet and 10 times closer than the Moon. The asteroid named after the Egyptian god of chaos and darkness and supposed shape like peanuts.
One hour after Apophis approaches Earth on April 13, 2029, Osiris-Apex, short for “Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security-APophis Explorer,” will use Earth’s gravity to enter an orbit. around the asteroid and get closer to studying it for 18 months.
This is a big new chapter for a spaceship that has begun a great journey. As Osiris-Rex, he spent seven years on a round trip to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, which included time spent inspecting, landing, and collecting space rock samples.
Now, the sample is in its new home at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where an analysis of rocks and soil collected from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu can reveal information about the origin of our solar system and the composition of asteroids that may collide with Earth in the future.
The spacecraft could not collect a sample from Apophis because the sample collection head was included in the capsule with the Bennu sample delivered to Earth. But Osiris-Apex will use its gas thrusters to try to kick dust and small rocks up and down Apophis’ surface. to study them about 15 months after orbiting the asteroid.
What Apophis can reveal
Apophis is interesting because it is an S-type asteroid, or stone unlike Bennu, which is a C-type asteroid, or carbonose.
C-type asteroids are made of clay and silicate rocks, while S-type asteroids are made of clay materials. silicate and nickel-iron.
The spacecraft’s ability to orbit close to the asteroid could reveal the ENDURANCE from the surface of rocky asteroids and how much wear and tear the asteroid gets around space.
But planning to protect Earth is another important motivation for the extended mission. Rocky asteroids are part of the most common class of potentially dangerous asteroids that pose a threat to our planet. Understanding its composition and other details that can only be obtained from close orbit will help agencies like NASA and its partners to determine the best way to deflect such asteroids if they are predicted to be on a collision course with Earth.
“Apophis is one of the most famous asteroids,” said Dani DellaGiustina, principal investigator at Osiris-Apex. “When it was first discovered in 2004, there were concerns that it would impact Earth in 2029 with its close approach. That risk was ruled out after subsequent observations, but this is the closest an asteroid of its kind has ever come. size that has come in the roughly 50 years we’ve been tracking asteroids, or the next 100 years of asteroids we’ve discovered. so far”.
“It’s approaching one-tenth the distance between Earth and the Moon at the time of the 2029 encounter,” added DellaGiustina, an assistant professor of planetary sciences at the University of Arizona. “People in Europe and Africa can see it with the naked eye, that’s how close it is. “We are excited to know that the mission has progressed.”
Observations of Apophis’ orbit around the Sun in 2021 They ruled out the risk of a space rock hitting Earth in 2068 according to NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies.
The center maintains a risk list, tracking asteroids with orbits that bring them close to Earth, close enough to cause concern about a possible impact. Scientists at the center use radar and telescopes to study near-Earth objects and understand the dangers they may pose to the planet.
Monitor Apophis during and after its approach to Earth will allow scientists to see if there are changes in its orbit that would affect the likelihood of it hitting Earth in the future as well as any changes in the asteroid’s surface or rotation rate.
DellaGiustina has a long history in spacecraft and currently also works as the deputy principal investigator for the Bennu sample analysis. As a freshman at the University of Arizona in 2004, he attended a seminar on asteroids taught by Dante Lauretta, regents professor of planetary science and principal investigator of the Osiris-Rex mission.
“(DellaGiustina) led the design of a student experiment in a version of the discovery of what we used to call Osiris“ Lauretta remembers. “Now take the spaceship to the next adventure.”