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Asteroid Apophis to flyby Earth in first of its kind encounter in recorded history – WION

NASA relaunched a mission to study the “God of Chaos” asteroid as it started coming closer to the orbit of Earth. 

A spacecraft, which had recently returned from deep space, was returned by NASA to carry out three studies. 

NASA’s spacecraft OSIRIS-REx – which has been named the OSIRIS-APEX – was sent off to study the extremely close flyby of asteroid Apophis in 2029, the like of which “hasn’t happened since the dawn of recorded history,” announced NASA.

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The spacecraft came back to Earth in September after it collected samples from space rock Bennu for seven years. 

Apophis, also called the “God of Chaos”, is likely to fly close to Earth on April 13, 2029, and will be only 20,000 miles away, which is closer in comparison to a few manmade satellites and will be visible in the Eastern Hemisphere.

The space rock, which measures nearly 370 yards across, approaches the Earth every 7,500 years. 

The gravity of Earth will affect the space rock as it comes close to the orbit and OSIRIS-APEX will understand the aftermath to see “how its surface changes,” as per Amy Simon, the mission’s project scientist.

Earth to alter length of day on asteroid

The Earth’s effects are likely to change the length of the asteroid’s day, which at present is around 30.6 hours per day. It can also lead to landslides and quakes on the “God of Chaos”.

“We know that tidal forces and the accumulation of rubble pile material are foundational processes that could play a role in planet formation,” said Dani Mendoza DellaGiustina, principal investigator for OSIRIS-APEX at the University of Arizona in Tucson, in a statement.

“They could inform how we got from debris in the early solar system to full-blown planets,” DellaGiustina added. On April 13, 2029, the spacecraft will meet the S-type asteroid, but will not land on its surface, and will “operate in proximity” to it for the next 18 months. 

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NASA said that the spacecraft would not only look to observe the surface changes but would also map the surface and analyse the chemical makeup of the rock.

The spacecraft will also go within 16 feet of the surface of the rock so that its thrusters can be fired downwards to see what has stirred it up and provide scientists with a “peek at the material that lies below.”

Even though the rock is still five years away from coming close to the Earth, scientists will keep tracking it as it reaches its first of six close passes with the sun.

(With inputs from agencies)