Science

Apophis, new target for the Osiris-Rex probe

On April 25, 2022, NASA announced 8 mission extensions: Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, MAVEN, Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity rover), InSight Lander, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Osiris-Rex and New Horizons. Everyone sees their duration extended by 3 years, with the notable exception of Osiris-Rex, which benefits from nine years as a thrall and a new target to explore. Before that, she must complete her current task: bring samples of the asteroid Bennu to Earth.

Delivery September 24, 2023

Launched in 2016, the Osiris-Rex (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer) probe heading for Benn succeeded in the delicate first phase of its mission: smoothly approached the star until it was within arm’s length (telescopically) from the Nightingale website. Then on October 20, 2020, she embarked on a “Touch and Go” maneuver to collect a few grams of a soil sample. They are now safe in the Sample Return Capsule (SRC) and on their way to Earth. This capsule will be dropped by a probe on September 24, 2023 over a test site in Utah (USA).

The scientists are already getting ready to take the car in and collect the dust from Bennu. It will be taken to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where a piece of it will be assembled and then distributed to dozens of science teams around the world that will try to uncover the secrets of the primordial solar system, whose composition reflects the asteroid. However, 75% of the contents of the capsule will be kept intact by NASA for future research using new analysis tools that do not yet exist.

To Apophis

Osiris-Rex will remain in orbit and, 30 days after the delivery of the cargo, will head to the asteroid Apophis. On this occasion, he will be given a new name – Osiris-Apex (Researcher of Osiris-Apophis). The meeting with Apophis will take place in 2029, shortly after the passage of the asteroid near the Earth. 99942 Apophis was discovered in 2004 and quickly attracted the attention of astronomers and the public, with estimates of its trajectory pointing to the possibility of a collision with Earth in 2029. Today, NASA eliminates the risk of collision, at least for the next passages. 2029 and 2036 In 2029, Apophis should still touch our planet at an altitude of 32,000 km or inside the lunar orbit.

But the object remains the target of choice. With a diameter revised to 320 meters, it is an S-type asteroid mostly composed of silicates. The probe will study it for 18 months and collect data along the way, though it won’t take a sample this time. However, it will also approach the surface and fire its thrusters, a maneuver designed to expose the asteroid’s interior, allowing mission scientists to learn more about the asteroid’s material properties and composition.

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