NASA Needs a Fleet of Spacecraft to Monitor Asteroid Flyby


Asteroid Apophis is scheduled for a quick rendezvous with Earth and NASA is hoping to get a superb view of the shut encounter in an effort to put together for doubtlessly hazardous visits by different rocky our bodies.

Throughout the Planetary Protection Convention in Vienna, Austria, final week, Bhavya Lal, NASA’s affiliate administrator for technology, policy and strategy, revealed the house company’s idea for utilizing a swarm of spacecraft to seize photographs and information of Apophis earlier than its shut method with Earth, SpacePolicyOnline reported.

An illustration of Apophis’ 2029 Earth encounter.
Graphic: ESA/NEO Coordination Heart

The NASA official urged that totally different house businesses work collectively to ship a world fleet of spacecraft to the asteroid forward of its Earth flyby on April 13, 2029. “Nature has supplied us with such a major alternative to exhibit our house mission prowess,” Lal is quoted as saying. “On this case to carry out speedy reconnaissance of an approaching object that is likely to be an affect risk to study all we will about it and inform any motion we’d have to take to mitigate potential catastrophe.”

Apophis, aptly named after the traditional Egyptian demon of chaos, induced a little bit of panic when it was first found, because it was deemed to be on a collision course with Earth. Additional evaluation confirmed that the roughly 1,150-foot-huge (350 meters) asteroid poses no risk to our planet within the coming many years, though a slight likelihood of affect nonetheless stays in 2068, in accordance with the European Area Company.

Radar observations of asteroid Apophis on March 8, 9, and 10, 2021 throughout its final shut method to Earth earlier than its 2029 flyby.
Picture: NASA/JPL-Caltech and NSF/AUI/GBO

The rocky physique is on its option to Earth for a really shut method in 2029, coming inside 20,000 miles (32,000 kilometers) of Earth’s floor. That’s shut sufficient for the asteroid to be seen with the bare eye, and ten occasions nearer than the Moon to Earth. And actually, Apophis will come nearer to Earth than some satellites in geostationary orbit.

So as to make the most of the asteroid’s shut proximity, NASA will redirect certainly one of its spacecraft to check the asteroid up-close. OSIRIS-REx is on its option to Earth to drop off a rocky pattern from one other asteroid often called Bennu. After it completes its drop off in September 2023, the mission shall be renamed OSIRIS-APophis EXplorer, or OSIRIS-APEX, and redirected to fulfill Apophis throughout its Earth flyby.

The worldwide spacecraft fleet thought, nevertheless, continues to be a mission idea at finest and hasn’t acquired any formal funding but. Apophis’s flyby does current a uncommon alternative to get a better take a look at a near-Earth asteroid, one which may assist beef up our planetary protection methods. And, as SpacePolicyOnline stories, planetary protection is among the many U.S. administration’s priorities for house, so there’s a superb likelihood that the asteroid-hunting swarm may get the funding it wants.

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