In the year 2029 a potentially dangerous asteroid, one of those who over the years has been in the crosshairs of the most catastrophists, will visit our planet. NASA, however, considering that they are playing with a margin of action, wants to anticipate this event and do everything possible so that the asteroid does not end up becoming a threat. They have a plan.
Does the name Apophis ring a bell? It was discovered in 2004 and, at that time, it was considered one of the asteroids that had the greatest amount of chances of hitting the Earth. The collision could have been disastrous, although further analysis began to reduce the volume of risk. However, it is one of the most common debates between astronomers and specialists.
You have to visit it before
What the Small Bodies Assessment Group is asking NASA is to organize a mission to visit the asteroid before it hits. pass by Earth in 2029. For this, a ship would have to be sent to explore the asteroid and carry out the pertinent studies that could provide all the possible information about Apophis.
The plan is to send the OSIRIS-REx, the spacecraft that visited the asteroid Bennu a few years ago and that has carried out great work on its mission. This ship will finish its order at the end of September and could be used as a vehicle to visit the other asteroid. If all goes well, they would put it in the orbit of Apophis so that, from there, it could do the pertinent analyses. What they want to know is the interior structure of the asteroidas well as discover more details about it that allow us to get a more concrete idea of its nature.
It could be dangerous?
As we told you before, everything related to Apophis has been highly debated and has been surrounded by doubts and all kinds of analyzes that have been, little by little, moving our gaze away from the asteroid. There are those who do not trust much in the progression of the calculations made about its trajectory and about the impact forecast. First it was thought that it would collide with the Earth in 2029. Then it was said that it would not happen and that the moment of impact would be in 2036. But an apparently solid explanation was also given that led to reducing the risk level to practically zero. Over time, it was determined that there could be another collision in the year 2037 and later in 2068.
There is talk of increasingly lower percentages, but scientists are aware that Apophis is the protagonist of too many alarms. There may be no danger in 2029, but NASA does not want to lose sight of him because they know that he will continue to be a threat. The main fear of astronomers is found in the size of the asteroid: 340 meters. With these dimensions, a direct impact on our planet could be catastrophic. Therefore, it is understandable to see that NASA is trying to carry out an exploration mission that allows them to know more about what they can expect.
To carry out the project, the possibility of collaboration between different countries is opened. Currently it seems that they are willing to do anything to ensure that the plan goes well and that they can visit Apophis before the date of the first supposed visit arrives. But for now, everything moves slowly. In addition, recently there was already a weighty idea on the table that ended up being discarded, so there is some instability about what they are going to do.
The visit date in 2029 will be April 13, at which time the asteroid will be at a distance of 32,000 kilometers from Earth. This figure is shocking, since it means that it will be closer than the Moon. It will be so close that anyone can look at the sky and see the asteroid. without any type of telescope nor tool.