Of Jamie Carter
In about seven years from today – on April 13, 2029 – the “Potentially Dangerous Asteroid” (PHA) named Apophis will pass through the orbit of our geosynchronous satellites. It will pass about 37,000 kilometers away from the Earth’s surface.
Apophis is huge. It was discovered in 2005 and is estimated to be about 340 meters in diameter, the height of the Empire State Building in Manhattan, New York.
It is estimated that such a large asteroid coming as close to Earth as Apophis is an event that occurs once in a thousand years.
Apophis is not going to hit our planet on April 13, 2029, but scientists believe that its close passage from Earth could change its asteroid orbit dangerously. It is possible that its passage through the Earth could bring it into orbit of collision with the planet in 2060 or 2068.
NASA has expressed doubts about this scenario, but since Apophis could wreak havoc in 40 years should we use the near 2029 pass to learn more about it?
This is the idea behind the Apophis 2029 Planetary Defense Mission (PDM), an idea published last year that is currently being considered as part of the Decadal Survey for Planetary Science and Astrobiology, a report by the National Academy of Sciences. US Science and will set NASA priorities for the next 10 years and will be published on April 19, 2022.
The near passage of Apophis in 2029 is a rare opportunity to visit it, say the authors of the report, who suggest that NASA launch a spacecraft to make measurements in the name of planetary safety.
“In order to be able to observe the changes that can be caused by close proximity to Earth, the PDM Apophis 2029 mission must have been in contact with the asteroid a few months before close proximity,” the researchers said. remain at Apophis for several months afterwards.
Any spacecraft should be launched by the end of 2027 and reach the asteroid by the end of 2028, the document said.
The main objectives of the PDM Apophis 2029 mission will be:
– make risk assessments of the possible impact,
– to determine its physical properties,
– determine its internal structure,
– to map its entire surface before and after the flight from Earth.
After all, if there is even a small chance that he will find himself in a new orbit that will lead him to a collision with the Earth in 2068, then we need to know more about him in order to be able to divert him or push him to a new orbit.
It is also a unique opportunity for scientists to see up close a real remnant of the formation of the solar system.
In any case, the PDM Apophis 2029 mission would be an interesting one that would follow the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), the first planetary defense mission of NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). The DART mission involves the crash of a spacecraft on the asteroid Didymos (twin) and its small satellite Dimorphos (twin), which also has the alternative name “Didymoon”.
The mission started in November 2021 and will reach Didymus and Dimorphos next September and during October it will crash in Dimorphos at a speed of about 24,000 thousand kilometers per hour.
The plan is to change the orbital speed by 0.4 millimeters / hour, which in turn will slightly change the orbit of Gemini, not because it is dangerous to Earth, but because it could be a capability that NASA needs to use one day to push a large and potentially dangerous asteroid like, possibly, Apophis.
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