In an unprecedented extension of its celestial duties, the spacecraft that delivered asteroid samples from Bennu, OSIRIS-REx, has embarked on a new mission, and NASA has renamed it as OSIRIS-APEX.
- OSIRIS-APEX is a mission to study the physical changes to asteroid Apophis that will result from its rare close encounter with Earth in April 2029.
- That year, Apophis’ orbit will bring it within 20,000 miles (32,000 kilometres) of Earth’s surface — closer to Earth than our highest-altitude satellites.
- The mission aims to observe the physical changes induced by Earth’s gravitational pull during Apophis’ flyby.
- These changes could include alterations in the asteroid’s orbit, rotation speed, and surface features such as quakes or landslides.
- The OSIRIS-APEX spacecraft will dip toward the surface of Apophis.