NASA has relaunched a mission to study the “Chaos God” asteroid as it begins its approach to Earth’s orbit.
NASA brought back a spacecraft that recently returned from deep space to conduct three studies.
NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft — dubbed OSIRIS-APEX — will be sent to study an extremely close flyby of the asteroid Apophis in 2029, the likes of which “has not occurred since the dawn of recorded history,” NASA announced.
The spacecraft returned to Earth in September after collecting samples from the Bennu space rock for seven years.
Apophis, also called the “God of Chaos,” will likely fly by Earth on April 13, 2029. It will be only 20,000 miles away, which is closer compared to some man-made satellites and will be visible in the Eastern Hemisphere. .
This space rock, which is about 370 yards across, approaches Earth every 7,500 years.
Earth's gravity will affect the space rock as it approaches orbit, and OSIRIS-APEX will understand the consequences to see “how its surface changes,” according to Amy Simon, the mission's project scientist.
Earth changes the length of the day on an asteroid
Earth's impacts are likely to change the length of the asteroid's day, which is currently about 30.6 hours per day. It can also trigger landslides and earthquakes on the Chaos God.
“We know that tidal forces and the accumulation of rubble pile material are fundamental processes that could play a role in planet formation,” Danny Mendoza Dellagiostina, principal investigator for OSIRIS-APEX at the University of Arizona in Tucson, said in a statement.
“They can teach us how we went from debris in the early solar system to full planets,” Della Giustina added. On April 13, 2029, the spacecraft will meet the S-type asteroid, but will not land on its surface, and will “operate in close proximity” for the next 18 months.
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NASA said the spacecraft will not only monitor surface changes, but will also map the surface and analyze the chemical composition of the rocks.
The spacecraft will also move within 16 feet of the rock's surface so its thrusters can be fired down to see what sparked it and provide scientists with a “peek at the material below.”
Although the rock is still five years away from approaching Earth, scientists will continue to track it when it makes its first of six close passes from the Sun.
(With inputs from agencies)
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