NASA mission targets 'God of Chaos' asteroid for interception

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which recently completed its mission to collect samples from the asteroid Bennu, is now set to study another asteroid during its close encounter with Earth. The spacecraft will be renamed OSIRIS-APEX (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security – Apophis Explorer) for this second mission. The target asteroid, Apophis, is expected to pass within 20,000 miles of Earth's surface on April 13, 2029. This close approach presents a unique opportunity for scientists to study the effects of tidal forces and the accumulation of rubble pile material on planet formation.

Apophis is over 1,000 feet wide and is nicknamed the "God of Chaos." It was first discovered in 2004 and is expected to pass closer to Earth than any other similarly-sized asteroid in recorded history. While there were initial concerns about a potential collision with Earth, scientists have since determined that there is no risk of impact in 2029 or during Apophis' return trip in 2036. However, the close approach will alter the asteroid's orbit, its length of day, and could potentially cause quakes and landslides that expose material beneath its surface.

OSIRIS-APEX will study Apophis immediately after its close approach, capturing images and observing any changes caused by the encounter. Unlike its mission to Bennu, the spacecraft will not make contact with Apophis. Instead, it will drop within 16 feet of the asteroid's surface and use its thrusters to stir up rocks and dust, providing scientists with a glimpse of what lies beneath.

NASA is eager to uncover new insights and answer more questions through this mission. The close encounter with Apophis presents a natural experiment that could shed light on the processes involved in planet formation. It is hoped that studying Apophis will contribute to our understanding of how debris in the early solar system evolved into fully-formed planets.

Overall, this mission presents an exciting opportunity for NASA to continue its exploration of asteroids and gain further knowledge about the origins of our solar system. The data collected from OSIRIS-APEX's study of Apophis could provide valuable insights into the formation and evolution of planets.


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