NASA's Mission to Intercept 'God of Chaos' Asteroid

Written by Henrik Rothen

Dec.28 - 2023 2:39 PM CET

Photo: Shutterstock.com
Photo: Shutterstock.com
NASA's Mission to Intercept 'God of Chaos' Asteroid.

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NASA has embarked on a mission to intercept a near-Earth asteroid, nicknamed the "God of Chaos."

According to NDTV, the space agency has deployed the OSIRIS-APEX spacecraft, which recently returned from a deep space mission.

The asteroid, known as Apophis, is expected to pass close to Earth's orbit, just 20,000 miles from the surface, on April 13, 2029.

This proximity could make Apophis visible from the Northern Hemisphere.

Apophis: The 'God of Chaos' Asteroid

Named after an ancient Egyptian deity, Apophis is a 1,000-foot-wide asteroid first discovered in 2004. It is expected to fly by Earth in 2029, during which OSIRIS will intercept the asteroid to study any changes caused by its encounter with Earth.

Scientists estimate that such an asteroid passes by Earth approximately every 7,500 years. Initially, experts believed there was a 3% chance of collision, but later confirmed there would be no impact.

NASA's Mission Objectives

After a seven-year mission to collect samples from the Bennu asteroid, OSIRIS has been renamed OSIRIS-APEX (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security – Apophis Explorer) for this new mission.

The spacecraft will descend to within 16 feet of Apophis's surface and use its thrusters to stir up rocks and dust. This will allow scientists to study the asteroid's subsurface.

The mission's principal investigator, Dani Mendoza DellaGiustina, emphasized the significance of this close approach as a natural experiment to understand foundational processes that could inform planet formation.

The Impact of Apophis's Encounter

Apophis's close encounter with Earth is expected to alter its orbit and length of day. It could also lead to landslides and quakes on the asteroid. The mission is seen as crucial for understanding the dynamics of such celestial bodies and their potential impact on Earth.

NASA's proactive approach in studying Apophis underscores the importance of space missions in enhancing our knowledge of the solar system and preparing for any future threats posed by near-Earth objects.

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