After obtaining samples from the Asteroid and safely delivering them to Earth, NASA’s OSIRIS-APEX spacecraft is currently on its way to meet the God of Chaos asteroid Apophis. The spacecraft will have an interesting mission in 2029 as it will be making the closest approach to the space rock.
The space probe formerly known as OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will observe the asteroid Apophis as it makes a close approach to Earth. Asteroid Apophis is named after the ancient Egyptian god of chaos. During its 2029 close approach, it will come extremely close that it could be visible with the naked eye in some regions of Earth.
How OSIRIS-APEX Spacecraft Commenced With Journey To Study Apophis
After returning the samples from asteroid Bennu, NASA’s OSIRIS-APEX spacecraft commenced its journey to visit Apophis. NASA named this extra journey as a bonus mission for the spacecraft. Its name was rebranded to Origins, Spectral, Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security – Apophis Explorer (OSIRI-APEX).
While making its close approach, the spacecraft will examine the asteroid and obtain more information from it. Apophis which is about 1,115 feet (340 meters) across will have OSIRI-APEX making its closest approach to its orbit on April 13, 2029.
The Empire-State-Building-sized asteroid will come as close as 20,000 miles (32,000 kilometers) to Earth. This distance is even closer to our planet than some satellites. OSIRIS-APEX will take advantage of this close approach to study the space rock.
“OSIRIS-APEX will study Apophis immediately after such a pass, allowing us to see how its surface changes by interacting with Earth’s gravity,” OSIRIS-APEX project scientist Amy Simon said in a statement.
Astronomers had earlier discovered to asteroid in 2004. Many people speculated that the space rock could potentially collide with Earth posing a great threat to Earth. However, observations conducted in March 2021 made astronomers conclude that Apophis will not pose a threat to Earth for the next 100 years.
The 2021 observations enabled astronomers to closely study the orbit of the asteroid also named Asteroid 99942. Despite the information astronomers currently have concerning the space rock, NASA scientists are still curious to know how the asteroid’s closest approach in 2029 will affect its 324-day orbit around the sun.
What Will Happen To Asteroid Apophis During The Forthcoming Closest Flyby
Astronomers released that Apophis only makes this closest approach to Earth once every 7,500 Earth years. During the close flyby, Earth’s gravity may shake up the surface of the asteroid which will lead to quakes and landslides.
The occurrence that will take place during this flyby sounds terrifying to Apophis. However, it will help us to understand what lies beneath the surface. OSIRIS-APEX spacecraft will closely investigate the asteroid and reveal its hidden secrets.
“The close approach is a great natural experiment,” OSIRIS-APEX principal investigator and University of Arizona scientist Dani Mendoza DellaGiustina said. “We know that tidal forces and the accumulation of rubble pile material are foundational processes that could play a role in planet formation. They could inform how we got from debris in the early solar system to full-blown planets.”
Since asteroids are made of materials left over from the formation of planets and baby sun around 4.5 billion years ago, this OSIRIS-APEX mission would enable astronomers to understand the building blocks of Earth and other terrestrial planets.
OSIRIS-APEX will arrive near Apophis on April 13, 2029, and commence with its operation around to asteroid for nearly six months. During this period, the spacecraft will perform some studies just like it did during its visit to Bennu. It will study the surface and chemical makeup of Apophis.
After the investigation, OSIRIS-APEX will lower itself and come with 16 feet (5 meters) of the surface of Apophis. After this, it will blast off its thrusters and displace surface material as it moves closer to the heart of the space rock.
“We learned a lot at Bennu, but now we’re armed with even more questions for our next target,” Simon concluded.