In an unprecedented extension of its celestial duties, the spacecraft that delivered asteroid samples from Bennu, OSIRIS-REx, has embarked on a new mission, and NASA has renamed it as OSIRIS-APEX.
- It is a mission to study the physical changes to asteroid Apophis that will result from its rare close encounter with Earth in April 2029.
- That year, Apophis’ orbit will bring it within 20,000 miles (32,000 kilometers) of Earth’s surface — closer to Earth than our highest-altitude satellites.
- The mission aims to observe the physical changes induced by Earth's gravitational pull during Apophis' flyby.
- These changes could include alterations in the asteroid's orbit, rotation speed, and surface features such as quakes or landslides.
- Additionally, the OSIRIS-APEX spacecraft will dip toward the surface of Apophis.
Key facts about Apophis
- It was discovered on June 19, 2004.
- It is a stony "S-type" asteroid made of silicate (or rocky) material and a mixture of metallic nickel and iron
- It is a remnant from the early formation of our solar system about 4.6 billion years ago.
- It originated in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
- Over millions of years, its orbit was changed primarily by the gravitational influence of large planets like Jupiter so that it now orbits the Sun closer to Earth.
- As a result, Apophis is classified as a near-Earth asteroid, as opposed to a main-belt asteroid.
Q1) What Is an Asteroid?
It is any of a host of small bodies, about 1,000 km (600 miles) or less in diameter, that orbit the Sun primarily between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter in a nearly flat ring called the asteroid belt. It is because of their small size and large numbers relative to the major planets that asteroids are also called minor planets.