NASA launches mission to study massive asteroid in hopes of preventing catastrophic collision in 2035

In Science, SciTech, Technology by Dominique LuchartLeave a Comment

space_asteroid_chase

An artist’s rendering made available by NASA in July 2016 shows the mapping of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.

NASA has launched the first ever mission to take samples from an asteroid in the hope of preventing the space rock having a catastrophic collision with Earth later this century.

The asteroid Bennu, which measures about 500 metres across, is expected to pass between the Earth and the Moon for the first time in 2035, and at present a collision is considered unlikely. However, a bizarre phenomenon, called the Yarkovsky effect, could change the orbit of the asteroid, placing it on a more devastating trajectory when it passes again towards the end of the 21st century.

The effect occurs because rotating asteroids absorb sunlight in some regions more than others, and when this energy is released back into space, the resulting thrust can alter the path of the asteroid.

nasa-osiris-rex-liftoff

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft lifts off on from Space Launch Complex 41 on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

 

One of the goals of NASA’s OSIRIS-REX mission is to study that phenomenon and calculate whether it could shift Bennu sufficiently to put it on a collision course with the Earth.

Simply flying so close to Earth’s gravitational field in 2035 could also alter its orbit, potentially putting it on a collision course. Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REX principle investigator said that if that happened Bennu “may be destined to cause immense suffering and death.”

NASA said the asteroid is too small to completely destroy the Earth, but it could devastate a large area on impact. The space rock that is believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs was 10 km across, 20 times larger than Bennu.

The mission will also lay the foundations for future programs to reorientate asteroids that threaten Earth.

NASA said the asteroid is too small to completely destroy the Earth, but it could devastate a large area on impact. The space rock that is believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs was 10 km across, 20 times larger than Bennu.

The mission will also lay the foundations for future programs to reorientate asteroids that threaten Earth.

Credit: Sarah Knapton, The Telegraph

Wait! Get Your Copy of Living Happy
Discover the art of Happiness with your FREE copy of Living Happy
I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )
We respect your privacy

Leave a Comment