NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft has completed a successful mission, dropping off a capsule filled with gravel and soil from asteroid Bennu. The spacecraft fired its thrusters to avoid reentering Earth’s atmosphere, marking the start of a new mission called OSIRIS-Apex.
OSIRIS-Apex is a journey to another near-Earth asteroid, Apophis. This stony asteroid is expected to be reached by the spacecraft in 2029. Apophis was selected for study because scientists once believed it had a chance of colliding with Earth in the future. However, recent studies have determined that Apophis won’t pose a threat to our planet for at least 100 years.
Currently, there are approximately 30,000 large space rocks that scientists are monitoring, with about 15,000 more yet to be discovered. The exploration of Apophis aims to gather valuable data about the asteroid’s orbit, spin, and surface, which will further our understanding of similar celestial bodies.
When Apophis comes within 20,000 miles of Earth in 2029, it will be visible to people in the Eastern Hemisphere without the need for binoculars or a telescope. This close encounter will provide a unique opportunity for skywatchers to witness this celestial event.
After studying Apophis for 18 months, the spacecraft will then embark on several laps around the sun. These additional orbits will allow scientists to collect further information about the asteroid’s behavior and characteristics.
The OSIRIS-Rex mission and the upcoming OSIRIS-Apex mission highlight NASA’s ongoing efforts to explore and understand near-Earth asteroids. By studying these objects, scientists hope to gain insights into the origins of our solar system and potentially develop strategies to protect our planet from future collisions.
As space exploration continues to capture the public’s imagination, missions like OSIRIS-Apex serve to educate and inspire a new generation of scientists and space enthusiasts. Through their research and discoveries, NASA is pushing the boundaries of human knowledge and furthering our understanding of the universe we inhabit.
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