NASA will send a probe to one of the most dangerous asteroids for Earth

NASA will send a probe to one of the most dangerous asteroids for Earth

The National Aeronautics and Space Administrationor better known as POT, has announced that OSIRIS-REx will have a new mission to extend its life: accompany the asteroid Apophis on its next approach to Earth in 2029.

This approach will be a unique event that at the time set off alarm bells for near-Earth object (NEO) trackers. Now, the OSIRIS probe is already returning to Earth with samples collected during its first mission.

The discovery of Apophis. Today it is known that Apophis will not pose a real danger to Earth for at least the next 100 years. But there is a short period of time when this possibility is considered, and it has to do with how to control these potentially dangerous objects.

The rock was first seen in 2004 and, after a few months of observations and calculations, its close pass to Earth in 2029 was initially estimated to carry a collision risk of 2.7%. This is the highest risk ever calculated for such an event.

How close will this asteroid pass to Earth?

Observatories tracked the object to refine the data so they could calculate its orbit more accurately. Once a sufficient number of observations have been obtained, the effect can be excluded. Even so, Apophis will pass at a distance of just over 36,500 kilometers from Earth, which means that from many parts of the planet the planet will be visible to the naked eye in the night sky.

The asteroid will pass below the satellite in a geostationary orbit, a tenth of the distance that the Moon orbits. That would be April 13, 2029, in case any TechMarkup reader wants to write it down on their calendar.

The asteroid will really be a danger in 100 years, or not

Calculations to determine the orbits of asteroids moving between the gravity fields of many larger objects, such as planets, moons, and the Sun itself, are extremely complex.

But one thing is for sure, the greater the number of observations and the higher their precision, the easier it is to make accurate predictions about their future (and past, if necessary) trajectories. This is where the new mission to explode from Apophis: OSIRIS-APEX.

The mission will take place when the researcher from the University of Arizona, Daniella Dell Giustina, direct the operation. OSIRIS-APEX will accompany the asteroid for 18 months as it passes close to Earth. During this time, will collect as much information as possible about the space object.

Another interesting aspect of this mission will be the gravity propulsion. As it passes close to Earth, its gravity can affect the structure of the asteroid itself.

In the same way that the Moon affects the tides by “warping” the Earth’s surface, the greater gravitational pull that the asteroid will experience as it passes close to Earth could affect its structure, causing earth movements and possibly bringing new materials to its surface.

The probe that will carry OSIRIS-APEX

And if possible, the OSIRS-APEX team has proposed that the probe land on the asteroid to serve as a “beacon” and thus be able to follow its route with greater precision. This will help better control potentially dangerous NEO for centuries to come.

As if that were not enough, before the end of the mission, in the fall of 2030, the probe will perform a maneuver that directs its engines towards the asteroid and will “raise dust”, removing the surface to try to gather observations from the innermost layers of the asteroid.

NASA has eight more extended missions

The announcement of the OSIRIS-APEX extension did not come alone. NASA has announced the expansion a total of eight missions: Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, MAVEN, Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity), InSight lander, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, New Horizons and OSIRIS-APEX itself.

Most of these missions will have a duration of about three years, always depending on the state of the material that is sent, although the OSIRIS-APEX is a mission that could last until 2030. Or even more.