Wednesday, May 4, 2022

It’s official, the Osiris Rex probe will visit the potentially dangerous asteroid Apophis!

Launched in 2016, the spacecraft reached the asteroid Bennu, from which it took a surface sample in 2020. Osiris Rex is now en route back to Earth, which he will reach in September 2023. When it is near our planet, the probe will release the capsule containing the samples of material that will then be collected on the surface by the scientists of the mission.

In the original plans this would have been the end of the mission, but the spacecraft is still in excellent condition and NASA has therefore decided to extend the mission for another ten years. The probe will change its name to Osiris Apex and will be directed towards the asteroid Apophis.

This is the most famous among the potentially dangerous asteroids and in 2029 will pass only 32 thousand km away from the Earth’s surface (in photos the trajectory followed by the asteroid)For a brief moment, it became the first asteroid in history visible to the naked eye!

Such a transit is a truly exceptional event that represents a unique opportunity to study asteroids that pose a potential security risk to our planet. In recent years, several mission proposals have been put forward and here we finally have an official one!

Osiris Apex is expected to reach Apophis a few weeks after the moment of maximum approach to Earth, after which it should enter orbit to begin a study phase lasting 18 months.

Reaching the asteroid after the moment of maximum approach will allow astronomers to understand how the tidal forces of our planet will have changed the structure of the asteroid. In addition, the probe will study with the same instruments an asteroid of type S (Apophis) and one of type C (Bennu). This will allow for the first time to have a direct comparison between Near Earth asteroids of different composition and this will allow to shed light on their nature and their formation.

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