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Updated December 27th, 2023 at 17:45 IST

WATCH | NASA launches mission to intercept ‘God of Chaos’ asteroid as it nears Earth’s orbit

A NASA spacecraft, which recently returned from deep space, has been redeployed for a mission to investigate the "God of Chaos" asteroid as it approaches Earth.

Manasvi Asthana
NASA
NASA launches mission to intercept ‘God of Chaos’. | Image:Unspalsh
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A NASA spacecraft, which recently returned from deep space, has been redeployed for a mission to investigate the "God of Chaos" asteroid as it approaches Earth's orbit.

NASA's spacecraft OSIRIS-REx, now called OSIRIS-APEX, has been dispatched to study the asteroid Apophis during its unprecedented close flyby of Earth in 2029, a celestial event that "hasn't occurred since the dawn of recorded history," according to NASA's announcement.

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After seven years of collecting samples from the space rock Bennu, the spacecraft returned to Earth in September.

Apophis, nicknamed the "God of Chaos," is projected to make a close pass by Earth on April 13, 2029, approaching to within approximately 20,000 miles closer than certain manmade satellites and may even be visible in the Eastern Hemisphere.

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The gravitational influence of Earth on the asteroid will be examined by OSIRIS-APEX as it approaches orbit. The spacecraft will study the resulting changes in the asteroid's surface, as explained by Amy Simon, the project scientist for the mission.

The spacecraft will encounter the S-type asteroid on April 13, 2029, but it won't land on the surface. Instead, it will "operate in proximity" to the asteroid for 18 months.

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Aim of the mission

The mission aims not only to observe surface changes but also to map the surface and analyze the asteroid's chemical composition, according to NASA. The spacecraft will approach within 16 feet of the asteroid's surface, allowing its thrusters to stir up material and provide insights into what lies below.

Although the asteroid is still five years away from approaching Earth, scientists will closely monitor it as it undergoes its first of six close passes with the sun.

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Published December 27th, 2023 at 17:44 IST

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