Astronomers have discovered that asteroid Apophis will visit Earth in 2029. However, NASA’s Small Bodies Assessment Group wants the American Space Agency to send a space probe to the asteroid before it finally makes its closest approach to our home planet towards the end of this decade. Scientists previously thought that Apophis (asteroid 99942) might be heading on a collision course with Earth in 2029. However, further observations revealed that the space rock will make a close flyby of our planet at the expected time.
This asteroid is a near-Earth object with about 1,100 feet (340 meters) in size. At this massive size, it stands the chance of causing great damage to our planet if it eventually collides with Earth. Hence, scientists show serious concern in studying the asteroid as it remains one of the massive asteroids that will be making its closest flyby to Earth before the end of this decade.
Why Scientists Want NASA to Send a Spacecraft To Asteroid Apophis Before 2029
Scientists are always concerned with studying near-Earth objects as they stand the chance of colliding with our home planet. As the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has successfully collected some material from asteroid Bennu in 2020, the spacecraft is heading towards Earth to deliver some of the gathered samples to Earth on September 24.
However, scientists encouraged NASA to extend the OSIRIS-Rex mission to visit Apophis, making the spacecraft to become OSIRI-APEX (OSIRIS-Apophis Explorer). The spacecraft will move into the orbit around the asteroid after the close approach. The Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG) anticipates getting a close-up look at the asteroid to learn more about its composition before the close approach.
Studies from SBAG’s July 2023 meeting which was recently published in a report by Space Policy Online on September 1 reveal that the agency “encourages NASA to pursue a mission opportunity, achievable within available resources, to explore Apophis prior to its close Earth approach, whether initiating its own effort or via collaboration with foreign and domestic partners.”
The findings also suggest the benefits of data obtained from this future mission.
“Data from before and after the flyby will “provide a complete investigation of this remarkable opportunity to quantify and understand in real time the consequences of planetary tides on the evolution of asteroids and glean important information on Apophis’ interior structure, which is otherwise unobtainable,” the findings suggest.
How The Asteroid Apophis Will Make Its Close Flyby
Apophis asteroid will come within 20,000 miles (32,000 kilometers) of Earth on Friday, April 13, 2029. Astronomers reveal that the asteroid will come within the distance of geosynchronous satellites orbit and 10 times closer than the moon. Scientists even suggested that the Apophis asteroid will likely be visible to the naked eye in some parts of Earth during its close flyby to Earth in 2029.
NASA officials revealed a proposal at the 8th Planetary Defense Conference in Vienna earlier this year to show its plan of sending a swarm of smaller spacecraft to observe Apophis. According to Space Policy Online, the two small Janus Spacecraft were originally planned to visit the Psyche mission. The two spacecraft will be dropped from Psyche launch after the mission was delayed.
“NASA and the international planetary defense community to work with the United Nations to declare 2029 the International Year of Planetary Defense,” SBAG also noted.
As we approach 2029, Scientists revealed that asteroid Apophis will be making its closest flyby to Earth that year. Hence, scientists see the need for NASA to send a space probe to study the asteroid before it finally makes its closest approach to Earth. What do you think about this?