Taking a page out of Hollywood’s iconic, “end of the world” blockbuster movie Armageddon, NASA has just announced plans to launch a spacecraft to survey a not-so-distant asteroid in the hopes of understanding the space rock’s trajectory and potentially saving the world. Whoa. Just like the movie.
Discovered in 1999, the asteroid called “Bennu” is roughly 1,640 feet (500 meters) in diameter and orbits the Sun at the speed of 63,000 miles per hour (101,389 kilometers per hour). Unfortunately for planet Earth, good old Bennu passes by its orbit every six years, so there’s always a small chance that the asteroid might take a detour and, well, smash the world into pieces.
“That 2135 fly-by is going to tweak Bennu’s orbit, potentially putting it on course for the Earth later that century,” said Dante Lauretta, a planetary science professor at Arizona University. NASA isn’t taking chances and is sending the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft to collect soil samples from the space rock. The soil samples will help NASA gain a better understanding of Bennu’s orbital patterns. How? Leave it to the experts, folks.
The OSIRIS-Rex will be launching next month and will be gathering soil from the asteroid through the use of vacuums. After it has completed its mission, the lonely spacecraft will fly back to Earth in 2023, hopefully with the planet still intact.
As for the chances of Bennu destroying the Earth anytime soon? Apparently, there’s only a 1 in 2,700 chance of the space rock causing cataclysmic destruction between the year 2175 and 2196. Relatively, that’s like a bazillion years from now, so chill out.
Source: Philippines News Agency